Boris Johnson in bid to save Iran nuclear deal

Growing signals that US may withdraw from agreement Donald Trump has called ‘worst ever’

British foreign secretary Boris Johnson flew to Washington from London on Sunday in a last-minute effort to save the Iran deal as the United States considers withdrawing from the 2015 accord.

With a May 12th deadline looming, there were growing signals that the US may withdraw from the agreement which President Donald Trump has labelled "the worst deal ever."

Mr Johnson's visit marks the latest diplomatic offensive by the European signatories of the deal, following German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron's visit to Washington last month. Though British prime minister Theresa May has not travelled to Washington, she spoke to President Trump by phone on Saturday.

No meeting between the British foreign secretary and Mr Trump has been scheduled, though he is due to meet vice president Mike Pence, national security advisor John Bolton, and other senior officials during the two-day visit.


European officials are expected to present a supplementary agreement to the Iran deal to the White House this week pledging to respond to Iran's ballistic missile activity, but it is unclear if this will be enough to sway the President.

Mr Macron warned in an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel that there could be “war” if the United States abandons the agreement. “We would open the Pandora’s box. There could be war,” he said, though he added: “I don’t think that Donald Trump wants war.”

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani warned that the United States would regret pulling out of the Iran deal. "We have plans to resist any decision by Trump on the nuclear accord," he said in a televised speech. "Orders have been issued to our atomic energy organization ... and to the economic sector to confront America's plots against our country."

“America is making a mistake if it leaves the nuclear accord,” he added.

By May 12th Donald Trump must decide whether to sign a renewable waiver which lifts certain US sanctions on Iran. European countries have already started making contingency plans for European companies operating in Iran that may be impacted by US sanctions if they are reintroduced.

The Iran deal was negotiated in December 2015 between Iran, the United States and five other countries, and committed Iran to curtailing nuclear activity in exchange for the lifting of punishing economic sanctions. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has certified that Iran is in compliance with the terms of the deal.

The Observer reported on Sunday that the Trump team had hired Israeli special intelligence agency to find incriminating information about members of Barack Obama's team who negotiated the Iran deal. The alleged move to discredit those who negotiated the deal was sanctioned by the Trump team last year after the President's trip to Israel, the paper reported. The allegations emerged amid reports that former Secretary of State John Kerry has been lobbying behind the scenes to try and salvage the Iran deal that he helped negotiate, meeting with Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif in New York and senior negotiators.

Meanwhile, as Trump returned to the White House on Saturday evening following a rally in Cleveland, Ohio, the controversy over his payment of hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels continued.

Speaking on ABC news on Sunday morning, former New York mayor and Mr Trump's legal counsel, Rudy Giuliani, said that he was now leaning towards advising the President not to testify in front of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Describing it as a "trap" he said that "every lawyer in America, thinks he'd be a fool to testify."

“He’s the president of the United States,” Giuliani said. “We can assert the same privilege that other presidents have.”

Asked if it was possible that Mr Cohen had made payments to other women on behalf of the President Mr Giuliani replied: “I have no knowledge of that but I would think if it was necessary, yes.”

The US President confirmed last week that he had reimbursed lawyer Michael Cohen $130,000 he paid to Stormy Daniels who alleges she had an affair with the president. The President and his lawyers have argued that this was a personal payment, and as a result did not violate campaign financing laws.

Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Cliffords, made a surprise appearance on late night TV show Saturday Night Live this weekend participating in a sketch with Trump impersonator Alec Baldwin. Mr Giuliani argued that Ms Daniels' appearance testified that her motive in alleging an affair with Donald Trump was to gain "fame and fortune."

Her lawyer Michael Avenatti, who participated in several TV interviews on Sunday, said that his client still hadn't told the entire story. "This should matter to the American people because they have the right to be told the truth by their elected officials. They have the right not to be lied to." [ENDS]

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent