Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, said on Thursday he has concerns there could be a military conflict with Iran over its disputed nuclear program.
The Associated Press quoted Clegg as having told The House Magazine, a weekly British political journal, that he feared Israel could carry out a pre-emptive strike on Iran.
Asked if he feared Israel could launch an attack against Iran, Clegg said, “Of course I worry that there will be a military conflict and that certain countries might seek to take matters into their own hands.”
AP added that Clegg said Britain had been attempting to demonstrate “that there are very tough things we can do which are not military steps in order to place pressure on Iran.”
He would not speculate on whether “Britain would participate” if the standoff eventually led to a military response.
“I think of course you don’t in a situation like this take any options off the table,” Clegg was quoted as having said. “When you are in a major standoff with a country which appears to have a sort of hostile intent on these issues, of course you don’t do that. But equally we have been very very clear that we are straining every single sinew to resolve this through a combination of pressure and engagement.”
Clegg’s remarks come on the heels of a report on Thursday, according to which U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta believes there is "a strong likelihood" that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June.
The Washington Post's David Ignatius reported about Panetta’s concerns in his column in the paper, saying Israel believes that after this time, Iran will have entered a “zone of immunity” that will enable it to build a nuclear bomb at its leisure, Ignatius wrote.
"Very soon,the Israelis fear, the Iranians will have stored enough enriched uranium in deep underground facilities to make a weapon — and only the United States could then stop them militarily," explained Ignatius. The U.S., however, does not intend to hit Iran until it has intelligence that Iran is actually building a bomb, and "Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu doesn’t want to leave the fate of Israel dependent on American action..."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak used the same words in his speech at the Herzliya Conference on Thursday.
"Today, unlike the past, the world has no doubt that the military nuclear program is steadily nearing ripeness and is about to enter the 'immunity zone,'” Barak said. “From that point on, the Iranian regime will be able to act to complete the program, with no effective disturbance and a time that is convenient for it."