British Won't Go Along with Illegal Iran War Planning by Americans

The government reportedly cites secret legal advice against allowing the use of bases on UK territory


diego garcia

How far a decade can go politically without going too far at all. Ten years ago, a Republican president and a Labour prime minister mobilized the Anglo-American alliance for an invasion of Iraq. Now, a Democratic administration has been rebuffed by the Conservative UK government (in coalition with the Liberal Democrats) in an attempt to secure a plan for invading Iran. As noted on Reason 24/7, the British government has been advised by its attorney general that complying with American requests to use U.S. bases on the British territorial possession of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and British bases in Cyprus in plans to strike Iran would violate international law, because Iran does not yet pose a clear and present danger. From The Guardian:

"The UK would be in breach of international law if it facilitated what amounted to a pre-emptive strike on Iran," said a senior Whitehall source. "It is explicit. The government has been using this to push back against the Americans."

Sources said the US had yet to make a formal request to the British government, and that they did not believe an acceleration towards conflict was imminent or more likely. The discussions so far had been to scope out the British position, they said.

"But I think the US has been surprised that ministers have been reluctant to provide assurances about this kind of upfront assistance," said one source. "They'd expect resistance from senior Liberal Democrats, but it's Tories as well. That has come as a bit of a surprise."

A contingent of British naval ships remain in the Persian Gulf, but the British continue to point to diplomacy:

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "As we continue to make clear, the government does not believe military action against Iran is the right course of action at this time, although no option is off the table. We believe that the twin-track approach of pressure through sanctions, which are having an impact, and engagement with Iran is the best way to resolve the nuclear issue. We are not going to speculate about scenarios in which military action would be legal. That would depend on the circumstances at the time."

Nobody wants a war (or "another Iraq," as Romney put it at the debate) but it'll stay quite on the table for all sides.

NEXT: Iranian Dissidents Win European Human Rights Prize

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  1. The fact is, right now, war is unforeseeable.

    1. To walk the road of peace, sometimes we need to be ready to climb the mountain of conflict.

  2. Nobody wants a war

    Don’t be silly.

    1. Exactly; there are several commenters just on this site who openly long for war against Iran.

      1. Fuck you. No one openly longs for a war against Iran. Do you openly long for Iran to get nuclear weapons? Saying you do is about as fair as saying people who disagree with you openly long for war.

        1. Have you not read Cyto’s posts?

          He believes it’s the moral imperative of “rights-respecting” nations like us to destroy dictatorships.

          There’s a paper-thin difference between passionately advocating something and longing for it.

          1. We don’t have an obligation to destroy dictatorships. That is up to the people who live under them. But we do have a real problem if these crazy bastards get nukes. More than anything it is a problem for the Iranian people. What if the mullahs really are nuts and think it is worth the lives of a few million of their people to get a shot in on Israel? They wouldn’t be the first lunatic dictators to sacrifice the lives of their own people. What a nightamre.

            1. But how do we have a problem if they nuke Israel?

              1. Israel would nuke back and turn the entire middle east and a good chuck of the world’s oil production into a nuclear wasteland. And last I looked we were allied with Israel and allowing lunatics to nuke and destroy our allies is generally bad for business.

                1. I’m willing to bet if we told Israel that they’re on their own, Iran would be a territory of Israel shortly after. Or a glass puddle.

                  1. Not to mention the fact that this whole scenerio depends entirely open the notion that, having acquired a nuclear weapon, Iran will immediately use it on Israel.

                    John thinks they’re that crazy. I don’t. No way to know which one of us is right.

                    But I don’t think starting a war on the off chance that he might be right is the correct way to resolve it. We don’t get to tell other countries what they are or are not allowed to do in their own territory until it affects us. Until, not because it someday might.

                  2. Or both. They might glassify it and then give it to Palestine.

                2. Still not exactly our problem. We’re what, the #2 oil producer in the world. We’ll be OK, and we’ll help our allies out.

                  We’d save PILES of money and millions of barrels of oil not having ships or resources in those areas.

                  Letting the middle east do what it wants to do to itself, no matter how sad the outcome for them, might be the best thing for the whole world.

              2. Israel doesn’t admit to having nukes, but they are suspected of having a minimum of eighty warheads in every non-classified estimate I’ve seen. So even if Iran did manage to build a nuke and did manage to get one through to Israeli airspace, and were able to detonate it, Israel would glass Iran.

                1. Only 80? Sounds like a nuke deficiency.

              3. America is much better off with than without civilized countries like Israel.

            2. Even if I agreed with you, I was responding to the fact that you don’t believe there are some commenters on here who openly advocate for war (assuming, as I previously said, that the difference between “passionately advocating for” and “longing for” is academic).

              I think Wholly Cow is on board, also ^_^

            3. I’m not anti oil. But complaining about not being able to get some oil just because it exists? Tough shit.

              1. Yeah. I think people sometimes forget: it isn’t ours. We don’t have a right to it. And they are under no obligation to subsidize our way of life.

            4. Iran already has bio and chemical weapons. If they’re so gung ho to launch a WMD attack on Israel why haven’t they already done it?

          2. Not to put words in Cyto’s mouth, but IIRC his exact sentiment is more like, rights-violating government have forfeited their right to sovereignty and determination of the affairs of those who they rule.

            1. That’s all well and dandy as long as you’re the one getting to pick who you regard as “rights-respecting” and who you don’t.

              1. That is the rub, isn’t it?

                I’m the last person to engage in relativistic sophistry — on a sliding scale, the US is far and away more rights-respecting than, say, N Korea, Iran, or pretty much any nation that we’ve engaged in hostilities with since the end of WWII — but certainly, we have not been uniformly rights-respecting, and certainly aren’t at this point in time.

                The more problematic aspect of the situation is more pragmatic: we just don’t have a good track record as a nation of building democracies. As a rule, we tend to know very little about the conflicts in places we invade and assume shared values where those values don’t necessarily exist. Iraq was supposed to be an Arab Israel, and it was supposed to get to that point 1-2 years after the initial invasion. I dunno what you’d call post-Saddam Iraq, but “rights-respecting” isn’t a phrase that comes to mind.

                1. Yep. I’ve always been curios what the “invade and overthrow the dictatorships!” crowd thinks of places that aren’t obviously just straight-up evil (ala NK, USSR, etc).

                  There are many quasi, soft-dictatorships around. Places like Singapore, Malaysia, several African nations, several Central American ones, etc.

                  1. “Singapore”

                    We SHOULD invade Singapore. For the food.

                2. I am not interested in nation-building, only regime overthrow.

                  I don’t think an invasion of Iran is necessary. The regime is brittle. It needs some covert action to give it that little push.

          3. No wrong asshole. It’s the moral imperative of rights-respecting nations to eliminate regimes that violate the rights of those rights-respecting nations. Of course you’re too much of an obtuse a ns stupid asshole to actually my actual argument.

            1. You have said before that we have the right to invade any country and kill civilians who are unfortunate enough to be in the way, we want so long as we make it more free. I’m not sure if you’ve raised it to the level of duty, but that’s way too far as it is.

              1. RR nations have the right to overthrow non-RR regimes as long as it leads to an increase in freedom. It is the duty of RR nations to protect the rights of their citizens by any means necessary, including terminating non-RR regimes.

        2. What JJ said.

          1. DYN-O-MITE?

        3. Point me to the commenters who are saying Iran better hurry up and get nuclear weapons before it’s too late. Which is what several here (not you) are saying about a preemptive strike.

      2. USA!USA!USA!USA!


  3. So what is the optimum day for bombing Iran to have the maximum effect on the presidential election? It has to occur earlier enough for people to rally around the flag, but late enough to prevent any kind of thoughtful pushback.

    1. Gotta get it in before the last Sunday news-shows are booked. I suspect no later than Thursday.

      1. Need to avoid the world series and both colledge and pro football. So it’s going to be a tricky deal to fit it into the news cycle.

        1. This. It’ll be Wednesday, depending on the polls early next week.

      2. I never could get the hang of Thursdays.

    2. Ima say Halloween. People’s preoccupation with the big Holiday, combined with the Hurricane Sandy cleanup, should have a numbing effect.

        If nobody hears from me next week, tell them I died like a hero.

        1. “He died as he lived.

          A load.”

          1. Sure, I’m facing frozen thundersnow and ice lightning and you make jokes.

            1. Do you have liquor? Or at least home-brewed disgustingly hoppy beer that you can pretend to like to make people think you’re cool?

      2. I have to admit, it crossed my mind that it would be a good thing if Sandy levels a lot territory in the blue states along the coast just prior to the election.

        1. Emergency executive order! Election postponed!

          1. Smile when you say that.

    3. I don’t see how bombing Iran would save Obama. If anything it would be doing Romney a favor by not kicking the ball down to him. No way does Obama do Romney any favors.

      1. It depends on the manufactured evidence to support the bombing I suppose.

        1. There is no reason to manufacture evidence. The Iranians are enriching urainium at a very high rate and have every intention of building nuclear weapons. It is just a matter of time.

          1. the funny thing is that they don’t have it yet. Heck, making a primitive bomb is basically 1940s high technology – just slightly more complicated than making vacuum tubes and basic jet engines.

            1. If North Korea can make a nuke…

          2. I seem to recall hearing the “Iranians are trying to make nukez OMGZ!!!” line at various times throughout the past couple of decades at least. Why is taking them so long to produce a weapon? Are they really that incompetent? The fucking Norks have built and tested a couple and they’re at least as backwards and 3rd world hellscape-ish as Iran. Possibly even moreso.

            Not that I’m saying they aren’t enriching Uranium, or don’t intend to build a nuke. They probably are. It’s what any self interested dictator with delusions of God-hood would do. Especially after we “let” N. Korea get away with detonating a bomb, but helped take out Kaddafi AFTER he voluntarily gave up his program. What kind of message did that send?

          3. Yes, which is why, instead of trying to be King Canute, standing on the shore and ordering the tide to stop coming in, we should be focussing on how to deal with a nuclear Iran rather than pointless saber rattling over how to stop them. Because if they want them, nothing short of a full invasion is going to stop them.

            1. Well, a pre-emptive nuking would probably stop them. Two pre-emptive nukings, almost definitely.

            2. Regime change would stop them. And covert activities can help a lot in that regard.

              1. Covert activities are the new hearts and minds.

              2. Regime change worked so well before, too.

                1. Iraq ain’t getting WMD anytime soon.

                  1. Again, Iran already has WMDs in the form of chemical and bio weapons, none of which they’ve actually used. If they’re so gung ho to destroy Israel, what are they waiting for?

  4. Just to quibble with the headline, but I don’t see the Brits saying they won’t go along with planning, just that they don’t think the war itself would be legal unless and until Iran is a clear and present danger.

    1. Quibble is a dish best served cold. It is very cold on the internet my friend.

  5. A ground war in Iran is unlikely to happen. The US population would crucify the politican who waged such a war — just look at what ground war in Iran polls at.

    Bombing Iran is more likely, but will at best retard the progress of the Iranian nuclear program by 10-15 years.

    All endgames converge towards Iran eventually getting a nuke if they really want one. As far as I can tell, the current “strategy” is to cross our fingers and hope for regime change so that a more responsible government will have the nukes. (Good luck with that.)

    If I were an Israeli policymaker I’d be shitting myself — but I’m not, so I’ll do what everyone else in State and Defense is doing: cross my fingers and hope that Iran is just your average dictatorship, and not the kind that wants to take the blue pill.

  6. What would a nuclear Iran mean? Terrorists with nukes? A rush for the rest of the Middle East to get the same weapons? Having The Bomb hasn’t exactly helped N. Korea, Pakistan, or India with any of their war aims since detonation of said device would lead to a retaliation.

    Would a nuclear Iran actually move other Middle Eastern countries towards the United States interest? Something like a NATO?

    I honestly don’t know, I’m just throwing out different scenarios than the usual “They will use it against Israel” or “Terrorists with nukes”.

    1. They could use a nuke to keep larger powers out of certain conflicts and situations where they would like more leeway. Supposing that Iraq were to be embroiled in another civil war or low-intensity conflict between Shi’a and Sunni, Iranians could interfere more directly for their benefit with less risk to themselves.

    2. It would severely hamper our ability to drone-kill Iranian wedding parties.

    3. It would make an already extremely dangerous regime a lot more dangerous.

    4. Having The Bomb hasn’t exactly helped N. Korea, Pakistan, or India with any of their war aims

      North Korea is shelling South Korean territory with impunity, and Pakistan is openly funding the Taliban. How is Gaddafi doing these days?

    1. That’s brilliant. Immediately emailed it to all of my friends.

      Both of them.

  7. Please stop treating ‘international law’ as worthy of anything of contempt.

    1. So you believe might makes right.

      Except on 9/11 — THAT was against international law. Or any time someone attacks US military, that’s also unlawful combat.

      1. Your mendacity knows no bounds Tulpa.

  8. Sounds like a prtty solid plan to me due.

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