Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

Iran nuclear deal exit was act of ‘vandalism’ says new leaked UK memo

Latest diplomatic leak claims US president wanted to spite predecessor Barack Obama

Boris Johnson, a former UK Foreign Secretary, walks with Kim Darroch, right, the former British Ambassador to the United States, after a 2017 meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. EPA
Boris Johnson, a former UK Foreign Secretary, walks with Kim Darroch, right, the former British Ambassador to the United States, after a 2017 meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. EPA

US president Donald Trump decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal was “an act of diplomatic vandalism” that sought to spite his predecessor Barack Obama, the latest leaked diplomatic memo from the now former UK ambassador to Washington reportedly said.

In the latest set of extraordinary diplomatic revelations, first reported last week, Sir Kim Darroch said Mr Trump was withdrawing from the 2015 agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear enrichment activity for “personality reasons” because the deal was brokered by Mr Obama.

Sir Kim’s cable to the-then UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson following their talks with senior US officials hinted at divisions in the White House. The Trump administration was also slammed for failing to have a “day-after” plan if the US withdrew from the nuclear deal, which it did last year.

The series of leaks, first report by the Mail on Sunday, have sparked a diplomatic frenzy and have damaged relations between the US and UK. Sir Kim’s description of Mr Trump’s team as “inept” and “dysfunctional” led to a withering response from the US president last week and led to the ambassador’s resignation. The president also slammed the Brexit approach of outgoing UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

One reported reason for Sir Kim’s departure is the failure of Mr Johnson, favourite to replace Mrs May, to back him.

UK security officials have now launched an enquiry and believe they know who was behind the leak.

Sunday’s revelations were based on a memo sent by Sir Kim to Mr Johnson based on the latter’s visit to Washington in May 2018 in his capacity as foreign secretary. Mr Johnson was trying to convince US officials not to withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal.

While he did not meet with Mr Trump, he did speak to Vice-President Mike Pence, national security adviser John Bolton and newly appointed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

"Pence also took you aside and hinted that the president was looking for a new deal which 'covered everything': stopping Iranian nuclear activity – enrichment, production, reprocessing – entirely; halting their ballistic missile development; and forcing them to back off from their activities in the region,” Sir Kim’s memo to Mr Johnson reportedly said.

But he slammed the approach of the three US officials, saying none could articulate why the president wanted to withdraw.

"The outcome illustrated the paradox of this White House: you got exceptional access, seeing everyone short of the President; but on the substance, the Administration is set upon an act of diplomatic vandalism, seemingly for ideological and personality reasons – it was Obama’s deal,” Sir Kim wrote.

It was also suggested that Mr Pompeo seemed most understanding of the UK standpoint.

The news came as it emerged that the reporter who first broke the story, Isabel Oakeshott, is in a relationship with businessman Richard Tice, the chairman of the recently formed Eurosceptic political group named the Brexit Party.

Nigel Farage, the public face and leader of the Brexit Party, is friendly with Mr Trump and has been suggested in some conservative circles as a future ambassador to the US.

Both Mr Tice and Ms Oakeshott categorically deny he was behind the leak amid claims the pro-Brexit businessmen could be to blame for the furore.

Updated: July 14, 2019 05:58 PM

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