The Obama-era deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), saw Iran agree not to build nuclear weapons, although it had limits that critics said were too soft and were set to expire in 2020. While Trump withdrew the United States from the pact in 2018, the UK, Germany, France, Russia, and China have so far stood by the deal.
“From the American perspective, it’s a flawed deal … plus it was negotiated by President Obama. If we’re going to get rid of it, let’s replace it and let’s replace it with the Trump deal,” Johnson told the BBC on Jan. 14.
“President Trump is a great deal maker, by his own account and others. Let’s work together to replace the JCPOA and get the Trump deal instead.”
— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) January 14, 2020
The UK, France, and Germany, three countries still involved in the deal, triggered a dispute mechanism in the JCPOA, following Iran’s announcement said it was suspending all limits on production of enriched uranium.
“We do not accept the argument that Iran is entitled to reduce compliance with the JCPOA. Contrary to its statements, Iran has never triggered the JCPOA Dispute Resolution Mechanism and has no legal grounds to cease implementing the provisions of the agreement,” the countries said in a joint statement. It was referring the matter to a commission, as laid out in the deal.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said after Johnson’s comments that the prime minister supports the JCPOA, but also wants to “be ambitious” and “bring in the United States and Tehran into a broader rapprochement.”
Raab said in a number of statements on Jan. 14 that the UK wants to remain in the deal.
“We want to keep the deal alive, not extinguish it. If Iran has the will, Britain will use its diplomatic energy to work with allies to chart the way forward,” he said. In another statement, he said, “We want to bring Iran back into full compliance and preserve the deal.”
Updating MPs on why 🇬🇧 🇫🇷 🇩🇪 have today triggered the Dispute Resolution Mechanism in the Iran nuclear deal. We want to keep the deal alive, not extinguish it. If Iran has the will, Britain will use its diplomatic energy to work with allies to chart the way forward
— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) January 14, 2020
Johnson also said Jan. 14 that he agreed with Trump that Iran needs to be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons.
“We’ve got to stop the Iranians acquiring a nuclear weapon. … That’s what the Joint Comprehensive agreement does,” he added.
Johnson’s support of Trump comes after a series of events rocked the Middle East, including the United States killing Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iran firing missiles at Iraqi bases hosting troops from a number of countries, and Iran accidentally shooting down a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 people from seven different countries, including the United Kingdom.
Iran also sparked outrage by briefly arresting British Ambassador to Iran Rob McGuire for attending a vigil for the passengers on the plane.
“Thanks for the many goodwill messages. Can confirm I wasn’t taking part in any demonstrations! Went to an event advertised as a vigil for victims of PS752 tragedy. Normal to want to pay respects—some of victims were British. I left after 5 minutes, when some started chanting,” McGuire said after he was released.
Thousands of Iranians have gathered to protest their government after the admission of shooting down the plane. In at least one locale, security forces purportedly fired live ammunition at protesters, according to witnesses.
U.S. officials have said they support the Iranian protesters, and Trump warned Iran’s leaders not to harm any demonstrators. Human rights groups said hundreds of Iranians were killed in anti-government protests late last year.
Johnson told the BBC that it’s good that Iran admitted to shooting down the plane, and that they apologized for what happened.
“Clearly, Iran, as President Rouhani has said, made a terrible mistake. It’s good that they’ve apologized,” Johnson said. “The most important thing now is that tensions in the region calm down.”
“I was actually in Oman just over the weekend talking to the people in the region, and they don’t want a military conflict between the West and Iran,” Johnson added. “Let me be very clear—I don’t want a military conflict between us and between the United States and Iran. Let’s dial this thing down.”