Who to believe?

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Sunday Telegraph – Leaders: Last Sunday, we revealed that several of Britain’s defence chiefs were going to meet to discuss the effects on British interests of a military strike on Iran by the United States to destroy that county’s capacity to build a nuclear bomb. Our story was categorically denied by Ministry of Defence officials, who told Sean Rayment, our Defence Correspondent, that there was “no truth in it whatsoever”.
The Sunday Telegraph

Leaders

Last Sunday, we revealed that several of Britain’s defence chiefs were going to meet to discuss the effects on British interests of a military strike on Iran by the United States to destroy that county’s capacity to build a nuclear bomb. Our story was categorically denied by Ministry of Defence officials, who told Sean Rayment, our Defence Correspondent, that there was “no truth in it whatsoever”.

Yet those officials also told Rayment that by writing the story, he “had come very close to damaging national security”. Asked how any story that was apparently false could possibly damage national security, the MoD officials changed tack: they admitted the story was correct in maintaining that there had been a meeting of defence chiefs – but, they insisted, an American strike on Iran had not been on the agenda.

It is, of course, no secret that the Bush administration has drawn up plans for a strike on Iran. As Seymour Hersh reports in The New Yorker tomorrow, many of the US officials opposed to a strike believe that its most immediate effect will be to generate an armed insurrection among the Shias in southern Iraq – precisely the region where British soldiers are concentrated. British soldiers are the most visible and easily accessible symbols of the American-led occupation in southern Iraq. They would be at very serious risk. Iran has also threatened to shut down its oil exports in the event of a strike, which could have a devastating effect on the world’s economies.

But if you believe the MoD’s press office, British defence chiefs are not talking about any of these things. They have no anxieties about what might happen to British soldiers in Iraq, and are certainly not meeting to discuss what to do in the event that the US drops “bunker-buster” bombs tipped with nuclear warheads on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

We leave it to readers to decide which is the more plausible picture of events at the MoD: its press office’s account, or ours last week.

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