In an unusually frank briefing to senior British civil servants, Sir John Sawers, the chief of MI6, Britain's foreign intelligence service said that British agents have been active against Iran's nuclear program since 2008. Despite their efforts though, Sawers said that Iran would likely achieve nuclear capability by 2014.

Sawer's remarks reported today in the Daily Telegraph were made last week at a lecture to a hundred senior civil servants in London. He said that since Iran was "two years away" from becoming a nuclear power, and that Israel and the United States would have to decide before then whether to attack Iran. He is quoted saying that “the Iranians are determinedly going down a path to master all aspects of nuclear weapons; all the technologies they need,” and that “it’s equally clear that Israel and the United States would face huge dangers if Iran were to become a nuclear weapon state.”

Regarding his own service's performance, he took credit for delaying Iran's ambitions saying that without MI6's operations, “you’d have Iran as a nuclear weapons state in 2008 rather than still being two years away in 2012” and that the service's goal was to “delay that awful moment when the politicians may have to take a decision between accepting a nuclear-armed Iran or launching a military strike against Iran… it will be very tough for any prime minister of Israel or president of the United States to accept a nuclear-armed Iran.”

This is the first official confirmation that Britain's intelligence services are actively involved in the campaign against a nuclear Iran, though the Tehran regime routinely accuses Britain of cooperating with the U.S. and Israel against its interests.

Last week I wrote here about the British economic warfare campaign against Iran, in which the government has used the financial levers of the City of London's banking and insurance sectors to squeeze Iran's economy and especially its oil exports. Sawers said in his lecture that his service has been part of these efforts and that MI6 has “run a series of operations to ensure that the sanctions introduced internationally are implemented, and that we do everything we can within the Middle East to slow down these remaining problems."

Sawers' lecture was billed at the event for senior civil servants as an "unclassified chat," as reported upon in a government magazine. Since it is clear that the British spy chief was aware that his remarks would reach the mainstream media, the fact that he spoke so openly is an indication that the British government believes that a full-fledged crisis with Iran is imminent and that the public and political spheres should be more aware and prepared for this. Last month, the head of Britain's internal security service, MI5, Jonathan Evans also gave a rare public lecture in which he that "return to state-sponsored terrorism by Iran or its associates, such as Hezbollah, cannot be ruled out as pressure on the Iranian leadership increases."