A preemptive Israeli attack on Iran could galvanize the Iranian people into rallying behind the government when sanctions have been eroding public support, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has argued.
Along with European foreign ministers, Cameron has agreed that sanctions aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program are working to sway public opinion among Iranians but that more time is needed.
“We need the courage to give these sanctions time to work," Cameron said in a speech to the United Jewish Appeal in London, the BBC reported.
“I have said to Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu that now is not the time for Israel to resort to military action,” he said, though, though added that no options were “off the table,” including military action, if Iran were to make “the wrong choice.”
Western powers suspect that Iran aims to develop atomic weapons with its nuclear program, though Iran has denied the allegation, claiming it is designed purely for civilian purposes, like electricity. The U.S. and EU have imposed a number of sanctions targeting Iran’s financial and energy sectors in order pressure the Iranian government to abandon its nuclear ambitions, particularly uranium enrichment.
As a result, Iran’s oil exports have fallen by 45 percent, its currency has depreciated, and inflation is rising rapidly, Cameron has said, according to the BBC.
"Most significantly, there are signs that the Iranian people are beginning to question the regime's strategy with even pro-regime groups protesting at the actions of the government," Cameron said, Haaretz reported.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague clarified that the aim of the sanctions was not to cause regime change in Iran, but purely to curb its nuclear program.
Hague said it would be up to the people of Iran to decide how to deal with their government.
“We will respect whatever the people of Iran decide, hopefully in a democratic process in the future," Hague said, according to Radio Free Europe.
"But our objective is to settle the issues about the nuclear program. If we could settle the nuclear issues, there wouldn't be sanctions. There wouldn't be this pressure from the Western world on Iran. This is exclusively about the nuclear program."