Unmoved or Just Slow? Johnson Takes Time With U.K. Reply on Iran

(Bloomberg) -- After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed Iran had misled the world over its atomic program, he might have expected a swift reaction from U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Britain is, after all, one of the six signatories to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

But it was not until 19 hours after Netanyahu’s presentation that Johnson -- among the main voices trying to persuade President Donald Trump not to pull out of the agreement -- finally took to Twitter to state Britain’s view.

“Iran deal based not on trust but verification,” Johnson said on Trump’s communication channel of choice. “Israeli PM’s speech on Iran’s past nuclear weapons research shows why we need Iran nuclear deal.”

Johnson’s ministry was apparently similarly unperturbed on Monday evening, taking two hours and 40 minutes from the end of the Israeli prime minister’s presentation to respond to a request for comment. Even then, the duty press officer replied that a statement had been sent out by the British Embassy in Washington and that he would “see if I can get hold of the response.”

To critics, that was proof of the toll on the state bureaucracy by Britain’s austerity drive or that the U.K. is shrinking from the world stage as a result of Brexit. The Foreign Office budget was trimmed by 22 percent between 2010 and 2015, and the cost of providing a supporting role to the Department for Exiting the European Union has added to the pressure.

That hasn’t dented Johnson’s ambition, though. He boasted in Parliament in March that he is spending 90 million pounds ($122 million) on the appointment of 250 diplomats to take the “representation of this country to the biggest of any European power.”

He may take some solace from the relative quiet among the other signatories. “The deal was put in place exactly because there was no trust between the parties, otherwise we would not have required a nuclear deal to be put in place,” was the obviously unrattled response from Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief.

In a fast-moving media environment, though, taking too long only feeds the speculation.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.