U.K. Slams New U.S. Iran Plan Even Before Pompeo Presents It

(Bloomberg) -- Even before U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced his new plan for curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, America’s oldest ally in the West -- the U.K. -- declared that it won’t work.

The deepening clash on a critical foreign policy matter is straining the so-called special relationship between Britain and the U.S. after President Donald Trump withdrew from the multilateral Iran nuclear deal, a move that threatens European businesses with sanctions.

Speaking in Buenos Aires on Monday, minutes before Pompeo’s speech, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson set out why he thinks the Secretary of State’s proposal for “a new jumbo Iran negotiation” is flawed. He predicted that in the end the U.S. will come back to discussing an enhanced version of the original deal -- known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action -- but it may take a long time.

“If you try now to fold all those issues -- the ballistic missiles, Iran’s misbehaviour, Iran’s disruptive activity in the region and the nuclear question -- if you try to fold all those into a giant negotiation,” Johnson said, “I don’t see that being very easy to achieve, in anything like a reasonable timetable.”

The Iran nuclear deal that Trump ditched had “a very clear objective” to protect the world from an Iranian nuclear bomb while in return giving the Iranians some recognizable economic benefits, he said. “The Americans have walked away from that,” Johnson said. “The prospect of a new jumbo Iran treaty is going to be very, very difficult.”

Johnson said he still believed reaching some kind of accord which includes the U.S. is possible.

“I’m not totally pessimistic about the situation,” he said. “In the end, there is a deal to be done that gives Iran a greater economic access to the West, but also constrains it. That’s what we want to work on with the Americans. They have some ideas; we have some ideas. I think in the end, we will get back to the kind of additions to the JCPOA that we initially envisaged -- but it may take a long time.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.