MI6 agents have foiled Iran’s attempts to obtain nuclear weapons but the Middle Eastern state will succeed in arming itself within the next two years, the head of the Secret Intelligence Service has warned.
Sir John Sawers said that covert operations by British spies had prevented the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons as early as 2008.
However, the MI6 chief said it was now likely they would achieve their goal by 2014, making a military strike from the US and Israel increasingly likely.
Sir John gave a secret briefing to the Cabinet in March about Iran’s growing military threat but this is the first time his views on the issue have been made public.
It is extremely rare for the head of MI6 to disclose details of operations by the intelligence service.
Sir John made the remarks at a meeting of around 100 senior civil servants in London last week in only his second public speech since he was appointed to the post in 2009.