Press Briefing with the Prime Minister's Spokesman on Possibility of a Military Strike on Iran (Excerpts)

April 19, 2006

Weapon Program: 

  • Military

. . .


Asked why did the Prime Minister never say "it would be nuts" to invade Iran, the PMOS replied that what the Prime Minister was indicating was to focus on the substance, rather than the process. The substance was that it was Iran that was defying the will of the UN in terms of its nuclear activity, and the President of Iran had frequently threatened the very existence of Israel, and that was where the focus should be. Equally, what the Prime Minister wanted to keep the focus on was the unanimity of the international pressure on Iran to come into compliance. In doing so, what we should not do was switch the focus from the substance of the issue to the process of trying to get Iran to comply with its international obligations. Therefore, the focus should remain on Iran's defiance of the UN and what was not just rhetoric on the part of the Iranian President.

Put that Iran was not Iraq, and nobody was talking about a military invasion, but rather it was about the possibility of bombs or missiles being fired long range, and was the Prime Minister denying something else, the PMOS said that the journalist had ignored the one part of what the Prime Minister had said which completely contradicted the journalist's conspiracy theory. The Prime Minister had said that the focus was on diplomacy, and it was not only the Prime Minister who had said that, but also President Bush this week. Therefore, that was where the focus was, and people could either play the process game with conspiracy theories, or deal with the reality. That reality was that there was a flagrant breach of the UN's will by Iran, and that had to be dealt with. There was also an explicit threat by the President of Iran to the very existence of Israel and its citizens. The PMOS said that those were the issues that we had to think about. The Prime Minister had clearly underlined today that the way to deal with that was by diplomacy, so the focus should be kept there, and not on a conspiracy game.

Asked what was a conspiracy game, the PMOS replied that it was to suggest that in some way, the Prime Minister had meant something else. In fact, what he meant was what he had said, and the focus was on diplomacy.

Put that President Bush had been asked yesterday, and the Prime Minister had been asked today if all options were on the table, and people could only go from there, the PMOS said that what the Prime Minister had said today was that what he did not, any more than he presumed President Bush wanted to do, was give a signal of weakness to the Iranian regime. What the Prime Minister did want to do was to keep the focus on the international demand for Iran to comply with its international obligations, i.e. to stop defying the UN by enriching uranium, which the UN said Iran should not do.

Put that it seemed that there was now potentially a more serious threat, as much of the same language had been used about Iraq, as people thought that they knew that Iran was enriching uranium, and therefore, people were naturally wondering why the Prime Minister did not say that under no circumstances would there be any military action taken against Iran, the PMOS said that firstly, it was not "that we thought that we knew that Iran had enriched uranium", as Iran had said that it had enriched uranium. This was not a story about us, but rather, it was about Iran and what it had done. Secondly, the Prime Minister had said explicitly, as had the White House, that Iran was not Iraq, and they were different cases. In terms of today, the Prime Minister had said explicitly that the route we were going down was diplomacy; there was an issue that we had to deal with.

Put that there was "not a cat in hell's chance" that the Prime Minister would win support in this country or even Europe for anything other than diplomatic action against Iran, the PMOS replied that the reality was the Prime Minister had said today that diplomacy was what we were dealing with. Equally, there was a real issue which did have to be dealt with, which was: did we want a country whose President had frequently said that he wanted to wipe Israel off the face of the earth to have nuclear weapons? The PMOS said people should focus on the substance of the issue, and not the process.

Put that realistically, it would be hard to imagine anyone in Whitehall or in the Labour Party thought that Iran was going to listen to the diplomatic pressure, the PMOS pointed out that the journalist's comparison with Iraq fell down because France and Germany, along with ourselves as part of the E3, had been united in our position of saying that Iran had to comply. Also, Russia and China were in a different place, and we had had a Presidential statement from the UN. Therefore, the demand of the international community was clear, and the question was: would Iran comply or not? The Prime Minister was determined that the international community's voice should be heard loud and clear, and that we should not divert into a processology game.

Asked if there were any plans to meet with members of the Iranian regime, the PMOS replied that the story about that at the weekend was wrong. We had normal diplomatic links with Iran.

Asked if there were any plans to publish a dossier on Iran, the PMOS said there were none that he was aware of.