World Politics

Boris Johnson calls for new Iran nuclear deal, says Trump is the 'one guy' to get it done

Boris Johnson speaks after being announced as Britain's next Prime Minister at The Queen Elizabeth II centre in London, Britain July 23, 2019.
Toby Melville | Reuters

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday called for a new nuclear deal with Iran, saying President Donald Trump is the "one guy" who can broker a better accord.

Johnson chided the "many defects" of the Obama-era agreement to limit Iran's nuclear ambitions but said he thinks there is "logic" in drafting a new agreement.

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"Let's do a better deal," Johnson said in an interview with "NBC Nightly News" anchor Lester Holt, his only with an American network. "I think there's one guy who can do a better deal ... and that is the president of the United States. I hope there will be a Trump deal."

The Trump administration officially withdrew from the 2015 nuclear pact, known as the JCPOA, last year.

Johnson's comments come amid mounting tensions between Washington and Tehran after a recent attack on a major Saudi Arabian oil facility. Two U.S. officials familiar with intelligence assessments told NBC News last week that the strike originated geographically from Iranian territory.

The prime minister said the United Kingdom was "virtually certain" Iran was behind the Sept. 14 oil field attack.

"We have no other workable hypothesis about how that happened," he said. "That presents the world with a very difficult scenario, very difficult position. How do we respond?"

Iran has denied responsibility.

Johnson, who is scheduled to meet with Trump at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week, praised his American counterpart as a "very, very brilliant negotiator."

He demurred about whether the two leaders had discussed potentially returning to the negotiating table with the Iranian regime, however, saying "you must ask the president about that."

The Conservative prime minister, known for his brash style and populist rhetoric, appeared to distance himself from Trump when asked to comment on comparisons often drawn between the two men.

"I think they are peculiar," Johnson said after a long pause.

He then seemed to draw a contrast with Trump over the latter's protectionist policies that run counter to traditional conservative economic principles, such as Trump's trade tensions with China.

"I come from a tradition that believes in free markets, free trade, all sorts of things that I hope would be shared by the president of the United States," Johnson said.

He added that he believes the two are "most different when it comes to Twitter."

"I got to be honest with you," Johnson told Holt. "I don't do as many tweets as the president does. I'm not a master of that medium."

Johnson faces political turmoil back home. The country, which voted to leave the European Union more than three years ago, could face a rocky departure from the bloc unless Johnson's government can lock down a new agreement — or set up another delay.

Johnson, for his part, has promised he would not arrange another postponement.

He mentioned that he was keen to "sweep away" barriers to trade between the United Kingdom and the United States as part of a Brexit package, jovially saying he hopes goods such as shower trays and certain socks could soon be allowed into his country.

An improved trade agreement between the two countries is crucial for many British political figures who championed the exit from the E.U.

"It's high time we got on and did a deal," Johnson said.

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Key Points
  • Any loans to Iran or engagement by the international community represent "appeasement," Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs Adel al-Jubeir said. 
  • Al-Jubeir stressed the international community's role in reigning in what he called Iran's aggressive behavior, one week after Saudi Arabia's largest oil facilities were hit in a drone and missile attack.
  • Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said in an interview Friday that he hoped to avoid conflict, but that Iran was prepared for "all-out war" in the event of attack by Saudi or U.S. forces.