UK’s May tells Netanyahu her country is sticking with Iran deal

In phone call, Israeli leader, British PM agree world should be ‘clear-eyed’ about Iranian threat, ‘push back’ against destabilizing activity

Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Theresa May (Composite image, Flash 90, AP)
Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Theresa May (Composite image, Flash 90, AP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his British counterpart, Theresa May, agreed on Monday that the international community needed to be “clear-eyed” about the threat posed by Iran in the Middle East even as May said the UK remained committed to the 2015 nuclear accord and praised its importance.

Speaking by telephone on Monday, Netanyahu and May discussed security cooperation, Israel-UK trade and the contentious nuclear deal signed two years ago between Tehran and the P5+1 world powers, which included the UK.

A spokesman for Downing Street said May noted to Netanyahu “the importance of the nuclear deal with Iran which has neutralized the possibility of the Iranians acquiring nuclear weapons for more than a decade.”

May told the Israeli leader, a vocal opponent of the deal, that the UK remained “firmly committed” to it and that it was “vitally important for regional security,” adding that Iranian compliance with the accord should be “carefully monitored and properly enforced.”

May and Netanyahu “agreed that the international community needed to be clear-eyed about the threat that Iran poses to the Gulf and the wider Middle East, and that the international community should continue working together to push back against Iran’s destabilising regional activity,” the spokesman said in a statement.

Netanyahu recently urged a “fix it or nix it” approach to the deal, telling the United Nations General Assembly last month that the accord will pave the way for Iran to obtain nuclear weapons if it is not scrapped or altered. Netanyahu singled out for criticism the deal’s so-called sunset clause, which will lift limitations on Iran’s nuclear program when the accord expires in over a decade.

“Nixing the deal means restoring massive pressure on Iran, including crippling sanctions, until Iran fully dismantles its nuclear weapons capability,” Netanyahu told the UNGA. “Fixing the deal requires many things, among them inspecting military and any other site that is suspect, and penalizing Iran for every violation. But above all, fixing the deal means getting rid of the sunset clause.”

Such an approach is reportedly being adopted by US President Donald Trump, who is set to give an Iranian policy speech this week in which he will likely announce that he will not recertify the accord to Congress.

Trump, who has called the Islamic Republic a “murderous” regime and the nuclear deal an “embarrassment,” will speak ahead of an October 15 deadline to report to Congress on whether Iran is complying with the agreement.

The move would trigger a 60-day congressional review period to consider the next steps for the United States, which signed onto the accord along with Iran and five other states.

In his speech, Trump is expected to declare the nuclear agreement contrary to America’s national security interests.

The president is reportedly unhappy about the periodic deadlines to recertify to Congress the Islamic Republic’s compliance with the accord every 90 days, as mandated in a provision of a 2015 US law known as the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.

Several officials familiar with internal discussions say the periodic deadlines have become such a source of embarrassment for Trump that his aides are trying to find ways for him to stop signing off on the accord without scuttling it entirely, the Associated Press reported last week.

“Decertification” could lead Congress to reintroduce economic sanctions on Iran that were suspended under the deal. If that happens, Iran has threatened to walk away from the arrangement and restart activities that could take it closer to nuclear weapons.

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