Iran nuclear deal: Johnson courts Trump on Fox & Friends


Boris Johnson/Donald Trump

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UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has urged US President Donald Trump not to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” by tearing up the Iran nuclear deal.

Appearing on Fox News’ morning show, Mr Trump’s favourite, Mr Johnson said the 2015 accord was not perfect.

President Trump must decide whether to stick with the agreement – which he has called “insane” – by 12 May.

Under the international deal, Iran has limited its nuclear activities in return for eased economic sanctions.

While in Washington, Mr Johnson will not meet the president. But he will meet US Vice-President Mike Pence, National Security Adviser John Bolton and foreign policy leaders in Congress.

The British foreign secretary tried appealing to the president via Fox Friends, which Mr Trump is known to watch regularly.

Mr Johnson began by saying Mr Trump “is right to see the flaws in” the deal, but he said they could be fixed.

He also said countries have “got to be tougher on Iran”.

But the foreign secretary warned that without the accord, Iran could develop a nuclear weapon and start an arms race among countries in the region.

Mr Johnson concluded that “plan B does not seem, to me, to be particularly well developed at this stage”.

Britain, France and Germany have been working behind the scenes for weeks in an effort to preserve the agreement, which was sealed during the Obama administration, and includes Russia and China as signatories.

What did Johnson say?

Mr Johnson was grilled by Fox presenter Brian Kilmeade on why the UK allowed the deal to pass if the foreign secretary was now describing it as “flawed”.

“I wasn’t in office when the deal was written. America should’ve done it too – we were all in it,” Mr Johnson said.

During the Fox appearance, Mr Johnson expanded on ideas he set out in the New York Times, where he argued that “only Iran would gain” from abandoning nuclear restrictions that currently “handcuff” the Islamic Republic.

Before Fox he also appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe programme, which Mr Trump has strongly criticised after falling out with its hosts.

Why are there differences among the allies?

Mr Trump has called the deal the “worst ever” and has threatened to withdraw unless the signatories agree to fix its “disastrous flaws”.

He believes the terms are too lenient, in particular that the deal limits Iran’s nuclear activities for only a fixed period and fails to stop the development of ballistic missiles.

Media captionA timeline of what Trump’s said about the Iran deal

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the nuclear deal had been “built on lies”, after Israel revealed “secret nuclear files” accusing Iran of having run a secret nuclear weapons programme that was reportedly mothballed 15 years ago.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres have all warned Mr Trump not to walk away from the deal.

Mr Macron said he agreed the deal should have wider terms and address some of Mr Trump’s concerns. He also said he feared Mr Trump would pull out.

Mr Trump must decide by 12 May whether to renew the waiver on sanctions, and has a wide range of options on whether to re-impose them.

What has Iran said?

President Hassan Rouhani said the US would face “historic regret” if it pulled out.

Media captionRouhani: The US would regret leaving nuclear deal “like never before”

In remarks carried live on state television, he said Iran had “a plan to counter any decision Trump may take and we will confront it”.

But he also hinted Iran could work out a deal with other signatories, excluding the US.

Mr Rouhani said: “If we can get what we want from a deal without America, then Iran will continue to remain committed to the deal. But if not, Tehran will continue its own path.”

Iran has said the documents produced by Israel were a rehash of old allegations already dealt with by the UN’s nuclear watchdog.

What is the Iran deal?

In 2015 Tehran signed a deal with the US, China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain agreeing to limit its nuclear activities in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

Under the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran is committed to slashing the number of its centrifuges, which are machines used to enrich uranium.

Media captionWhat is the Iran nuclear deal?

It is also meant to cut its stockpile of enriched uranium drastically and not enrich remaining uranium to the level needed to produce nuclear weapons.

The number of centrifuges installed at Iran’s Natanz and Fordo sites was cut drastically soon after the deal while tonnes of low-enriched uranium were shipped to Russia.

Furthermore, monitors from the IAEA have been able to carry out snap inspections at Iranian nuclear sites.