Failure to secure Iran nuclear deal could spark MidEast arms race – UK Foreign Sec

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (LtoR) pose for photographers before a meeting in Vienna November 24, 2014. (Reuters / Leonhard Foeger)
Failure to strike an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program will lead to further instability and a possible nuclear arms race in the Middle East, British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond said Wednesday.

International talks between leading global powers and the Iranian government focusing on Tehran’s nuclear capabilities resumed in Switzerland on Thursday.The 5+1 negotiations are being held in a bid to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.In the face of western opposition, however, the Iranian government insists its atomic ambitions are peaceful.

As over a decade of tense talks come to a close, China, Russia, the US, France, Germany and Britain will strive to secure an agreement with Tehran. The deal will seek to clamp down on Tehran’s atomic program in exchange for easing crippling sanctions on the Middle Eastern state.

In an official statement in London on Wednesday, Hammond said a deal was “deliverable.” He stressed, however, that such an agreement is dependent upon Iran demonstrating flexibility and making some “tough decisions.”

Hammond said “no deal is better than a bad deal,” but warned a failure to reach an agreement would mean Iran faces a vacuum of restrictions on nuclear enrichment, research and development.

Such a scenario would mean a “fundamentally more unstable Middle East, with the prospect of a nuclear arms race in the region,” he said.

Hammond called for every effort to be made to broker a satisfactory deal, insisting “the door to a nuclear deal is open, but Iran must now step through it.”

READ MORE: ‘Not just snooping’: Israel accused of feeding secret info on Iran talks to US lawmakers

Speaking to RT on Thursday, Andrew Smith of British charity Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) said Iran does not pose a military threat to the UK.

“We heard similar things about Iraq before the catastrophic intervention that we are still seeing the human cost of 12 years later,” he told RT.

Smith stressed that UK foreign policy has bred instability in the Middle East, and has been a direct cause of “war and conflict in the region.”

“One of the legacies of the disastrous and immoral war in Iraq has been the exacerbation of tensions and the growth of ISIS,” he said.

Smith's comments were echoed by Daniel Jakopovich of Stop the War Coalition who said UK foreign policy has "greatly exacerbated violence" in the Middle East,"contributing to Islamist radicalization.”

Responding to Hammond's remarks, Jakopovich said the British government has contributed to an ongoing global arms race.

“Anglo-American wars have promoted international lawlessness and a "might makes right" approach to conducting international affairs," he said.

“Their aggressive militaristic approach has greatly contributed to the global arms race, including the nuclear arms race.”

READ MORE: Iran, Hezbollah left off US terror threat listing

Commenting on the Iran nuclear talks, US officials said Wednesday that an agreement was on the horizon and could be secured by March 31. On Tuesday, Israel faced allegations of feeding secret information to US lawmakers in an effort to derail the talks.The claims surfaced in a Wall Street Journal investigation, and were drawn from dozens of interviews with officials who are familiar with the negotiations.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon rejected the allegations, however, insisting spying on US officials is “forbidden among every level of Israel's policy leaders.”He added that US-Israeli relations remain intact and that“someone is just trying to stir conflict.”

The WSJ’s report comes at a time when tensions between Tel Aviv and Washington are already somewhat strained. Earlier this month, Netanyahu delivered a controversial address to America's Congress, but snubbed both the White House and the US State Department.

Netanyahu's sharp criticism of Iran during the speech was subsequently dismissed by US President Barack Obama as a continuance of the Knesset's hawkish rhetoric on such issues.

READ MORE: Nuke talks: ‘US unrealistic expecting Iran to give up’

CAAT's Andrew Smith saidBritain's Middle East foreign policyis fraught with hypocrisy and inconsistency.He argued the government has armed regimes like Saudi Arabia that are equally“as oppressive as Iran”while preaching about human rights.

When asked whether the West’s sanctions on Iran are just, Smith declined to specify. He insisted, however, that sanctions often “hurt civilians rather than governments.”

Citing US-imposed sanctions on Iraq, which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 500,000 Iraqi children, Smith said the human cost of such policies can be extremely high.

Stop the War Coalition's DanielJakopovich said the “belligerent approach of the Western powers” poses a serious threat to the well-being of Iran’s populace, and the stability of the country itself.

“The sanctions imposed on Iran are deeply unjust, especially considering that the state of Israel, as a habitual human rights' abuser and the only country in the region which is known to possess nuclear weapons, receives enormous financial and military aid from the United States,” he added.

Jakopovich said the sanctions are “likely to be counterproductive” as they risk “alienating the Iranian state and the Iranian population from the West.”

“The sanctions against Iran are also contributing to the weakening of medical care and to food insecurity, leaving people preoccupied with day-to-day survival and probably less capable of focusing on political democratization,” he added.