Will Lloyd

Boris’s Iran approach delicately balances European and American interests

The Iran nuclear deal has been as lifeless as the surface of the moon ever since Donald Trump pulled out of it in May 2018. Iran’s behaviour ever since — the drone strike on Saudi oil production facilities, the seizure of a British-owned oil tanker, the launch of a new generation of centrifuges to enrich uranium — only added to the deal’s Dodo-like status.

Over the weekend it looked as if the European response would be the diplomatic equivalent of necromancy. ‘We agreed that we should do anything to preserve the deal, the JCPOA,’ Angela Merkel said in a joint press conference with Vladimir Putin. ‘For this reason we will continue to employ all diplomatic means to keep this agreement alive, which is certainly not perfect but it is an agreement and it comprises commitments by all sides.’ The powerful reasoning skills that make Merkel a heroic figure the world over were on full display here, as she rightly pointed out that the agreement is…an agreement. In a call with Vladimir Putin, again playing the role of guardian of the world system, Emmanuel Macron of France expressed a similar desire to safeguard the deal.

Barely a day passed before the Europeans appeared to flip their position. Yesterday, France, Germany and the UK triggered the deal’s dispute mechanism, a move that lead to textbook threats from the Iranian government. It may be the last shovel load of soil tossed over the deal’s coffin. In an ideal world, France, Germany and the UK would like to see Iran come back to the table, though whether Iran would accept the kind of concessions demanded of them were this to happen seems unlikely. It was left to Boris Johnson to articulate

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