Boris Johnson on US-Iran Tensions: ‘Let’s Dial This Thing Down’



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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has largely distanced himself from the confrontation between the United States and Iran. Washington has branded the assassinated Iranian general Suleimani a terrorist; Johnson expressed a similar sentiment but nevertheless called for de-escalation.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for the cooling of tensions over Iran and spoke in favour of a replacement for the collapsed nuclear deal.

On Iran tensions

Speaking to the BBC on Tuesday, he said that Britain doesn’t want a military conflict between Iran and the West.

“Let’s dial this thing down,” he added.

The assassination of Qassem Soleimani on 3 January brought the US and Iran to the brink of an armed conflict; the hostilities reached their pinnacle last week with Iran firing rockets at two Iraqi bases that host American soldiers.

Observers in both Britain and the US suggested that Iran had intentionally missed populated areas and gave Iraq, the US ally, advance warning of the strike to frame it as an act of retaliation and show its willingness to avoid further action.

Britain has remained on the sidelines of the conflict; Boris Johnson said he woudn’t “lament” the death of Soleimani and described him as “a threat to all our interests”, while calling for de-escalation from all sides.

On 11 January, however, UK envoy to Iran Rob Macaire was briefly detained for his alleged role in an unauthorised demonstration in Tehran. Macaire said he hadn’t taken part in the rally but merely attended a vigil for the victims of the Ukrainian jet crash in Tehran. After Boris Johnson called the detention an “unacceptable breach” of international laws, the UK summoned Iran’s ambassador on Monday over the incident.

On the nuclear deal

The Soleimani killing, which comes on the heels of a 20-month-long “maximum pressure” campaign and US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, prompted Tehran to fully scale back its commitments under the agreement. Iran said it would no longer comply with any of the limits on its nuclear programme but promised to reverse the move if the US lifts crippling economic sanctions it began re-imposing in May 2018.

The remaining signatories of the deal have reaffirmed their commitment to the agreement and urged Iran to keep complying with it, but Johnson floated another option on Tuesday.

“If we’re going to get rid of it, let’s replace it and let’s replace it with the Trump deal,” he said. “That would be a great way forward.”

Donald Trump has stated repeatedly in the past that a new deal must encompass Iran’s ballistic missile programme – a condition Iran is very unlikely to agree to.

“If you get rid of this nuclear deal, the JCPOA, it’s what Trump wants. My point to our American friends is, look, somehow or other you’ve got to stop the Iranians acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Johnson added.

“From the American perspective, it’s a flawed agreement, it expires, plus it was negotiated by President (Barack) Obama. From their point of view it has many, many faults.”


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