Boris Johnson appeared to make an audacious bid to tempt Donald Trump back to the table win the Iran nuclear deal last night (MON) with a message in a TV news interview.
Speaking ahead of this week’s United Nations General Assembly in New York, the Prime Minister had said he wanted to be a “bridge” between EU leaders and the US President.
Much of the summit has been dominated by discussions aimed at de-escalating tensions in the gulf – and convincing Iran to return to compliance with the deal, which from developing a nuclear weapon.
Donald Trump last year pulled the US out of the agreement, branding it “the worst deal ever”, a “disaster” for which he blamed his predecessor Barack Obama.
And Trump had shown little interest in negotiating with Iran in New York. As recently as Sunday the US had not granted visas to many members of President Hassan Rouhani’s delegation.
But the diplomatic cogs appeared to start turning with Boris Johnson ’s interview for US network NBC.
TV news has become an unofficial diplomatic backchannel to the Trump White House – a surefire way to get a message to America’s biggest news junkie.
And this afternoon, Johnson appeared on NBC, using language which appeared curiously tailored to tickle the President’s ego.
“I think there’s one guy who can do a better deal, he said. “And that is the President of the United States.”
He added: “I hope there will be a Trump deal.”
Within the hour, the comments had been relayed to the President, who responded positively.
“That’s why he’s a winner,” he told the White House’s pool reporter. “That’s why he’s a man who’s going to be successful in the UK.
“You’re talking about Boris right?”
“Boris is a man, who… Number one, he’s a friend of mine. Number two, he’s very smart, very tough.
“He does want to do a deal.
He went on: “The other deal was ready to expire. It was a very short number of years left. All that money paid and wasted. We didn’t have the right to inspect the appropriate sites.
“One of the big mistakes was that the agreement was going to expire in a short number of years. What kind of a deal is that?
“I respect Boris a lot and I’m not at all surprised that he was the first one to come out and say that.”
Johnson then sat down for a planned meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron – the so-called E3.
When the meeting broke up, the E3 leaders immediately issued a joint statement urging Iran to return to the agreements in the deal – and proposing “negotiation on a long-term framework for its nuclear programme as well as on issues related to regional security, including its missiles programme and other means of delivery”.
The momentum piles pressure on Johnson to be the go between in negotiations. He will sit down for face-to-face meetings tomorrow, first with President Trump, then with President Rouhani.