The British government rejected U.S. requests to use military bases in the United Kingdom as part of a build-up in the Gulf, citing legal concerns that a pre-emptive strike on Iran would violate international law, The Guardian reported.
The United States has made informal requests to access British bases in Cypress and British territories in the Atlantic and Indian oceans as part of contingency planning for Iran, The Guardian reported, citing unnamed officials.
British ministers, however, have responded with legal advice from the U.K. attorney general’s office that says Iran does not currently represent “a clear and present danger” and as a result, providing assistance to U.S. forces potentially involved in a strike on Iran would violate international law.
“The UK would be in breach of international law if it facilitated what amounted to a pre-emptive strike on Iran," said a British defense official. “It is explicit. The government has been using this to push back against the Americans.”
While the Obama administration has not made a formal request to the British government for military access, the United States has been exploring the “British position” on the use of bases.
The UK has assumed that it would only become involved once a conflict had already begun, and has been reluctant to commit overt support to Washington in the buildup to any military action, the paper reported.
"It is quite likely that if the Israelis decided to attack Iran, or the Americans felt they had to do it for the Israelis or in support of them, the UK would not be told beforehand," said an unnamed source. "In some respects, the UK government would prefer it that way."
A U.S. State Department official told The Guardian that, "The U.S. and the U.K. co-ordinate on all kinds of subjects all the time, on a huge range of issues. We never speak on the record about these types of conversations."
The Obama administration has repeatedly said that it wants a reach a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear program, although President Obama has said he will not rule out using military force to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
"The key to holding back Israel is Israeli confidence that the US will deal with Iran when the moment is right," another official said.
In August, the most senior US military officer, General Martin Dempsey, distanced himself from any Israeli plan to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. He said such an attack would "clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran's nuclear program.”
"I don't want to be complicit if they [Israel] choose to do it," he added.