London: Britain's armed forces are stepping up contingency planning for potential military action against Iran, amid mounting concern about Tehran's nuclear enrichment programme, a media report said today. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) believed the US may decide to fast-forward plans for targeted missile strikes at some key Iranian facilities, it said.
The Guardian daily quoting British officials said that if Washington presses ahead it will seek, and receive, UK military help for any mission, despite some deep reservations within the coalition government.
The British military planners of a potential attack are examining where best to deploy Royal Navy ships and submarines equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles over the coming months as part of what would be an air and sea campaign, the report said.
The US would ask permission to launch attacks from Diego Garcia, the British Indian Ocean territory, which the Americans have used previously for conflicts in the Middle East.
US officials are likely to seize on next week's report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is expected to provide fresh evidence of a possible nuclear weapons programme in Iran.
Quoting Whitehall officials, the paper said Iran has proved "surprisingly resilient" in the face of sanctions, and added that sophisticated attempts by the west to cripple its nuclear enrichment programme had been less successful than first thought.
Officials now believe Iran has restored all the capacity it lost in a sophisticated cyber attack last year.
NATO won't intervene
NATO has no intention of intervening in Iran and backs a diplomatic solution to the nuclear dispute, the alliance's chief said today, after reports of a debate in Israel over launching an attack.
"Let me stress that NATO has no intention whatsoever to intervene in Iran and NATO is not engaged as an alliance in the Iran question," Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a news conference.
"We support of course the international efforts to pursue political and diplomatic solutions to the Iran problem," he said, urging Tehran to comply with UN Security Council resolutions demanding a halt in nuclear activities.
Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was seeking cabinet support for a military strike on Iran, after days of speculation about plans for an attack.
Iran summons Swiss envoy to protest over US 'threats'
Meanwhile Iran has made a formal protest over military experts' remarks to a US Congressional committee last week urging the targeted assassination of members of its elite Quds Force military special operations unit.
Iran's foreign ministry summoned the Swiss ambassador to Tehran, Livia Leu Agosti, to condemn the Congressional committee session "on the issue of assassinating Iranian officials," the website of Iran's state broadcaster said.
The Swiss embassy handles US diplomatic matters in the absence of diplomatic ties between Iran and the United States.
"Considering the threats made against the Iranian officials in this session, in case of any kind of terrorist action against Iranian officials, the American government will be held responsible," an unnamed foreign ministry official reportedly told Leu Agosti.
Iran was complaining about testimony given to the US Congress's Homeland Security Committee on October 26 by two military analysts invited to speak as expert witnesses.
The first, a US retired four-star general who helped plan the US-led occupation of Iraq, Jack Keane, called for the killing of leaders of Iran's Quds Force in retaliation for their alleged role in a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington.
"Why don't we kill them? We kill other people who are running terrorist organisations against the United States," he said.
The other witness, Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA officer who is now a senior fellow at the neo-conservative think-tank the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, agreed.
"I don't think that you are going to really intimidate these people, get their attention, unless you shoot somebody," he said, arguing that an attempt should be made to capture or kill the head of the Quds Force, Qassem Suleimani.
Several US congressmen on the committee said they were not excluding any measures against Iran, but they did not explicitly endorse Keane and Gerecht's advice.
The Iranian foreign ministry official who spoke to the Swiss ambassador reportedly said however that the argument for assassinations "contradicts Washington's legal obligations in combatting terrorism."
Iran has fiercely denied any involvement in the alleged assassination plot against the Saudi ambassador and sent a letter to Washington demanding an apology.
It has called the accusations an attempt by the United States to distract attention from domestic economic problems and a failed foreign policy in the Middle East.
The Guardian had also reported Iran's reaction to the threat of US actions and the Iranian foreign minister warned the US that an attack on Iran would lead to a full scale collision.
AFP and PTI
Updated Date: Nov 04, 2011 14:18:08 IST