World powers never expected the nuclear agreement signed Tuesday with Iran to have an immediate impact on the Islamic Republic’s actions, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told Israeli television on Thursday, but over time and with growing engagement, the regime could become more moderate.
“We never pretended this solves all our problems with Iran,” Hammond told Channel 2, as he attempted to sway the opinion of Israelis toward the deal.
However, he explained, “We know from experience that countries that have multiple engagements… do face constraints and do moderate their behavior.”
Britain is one of the six world powers — along with China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — that struck the agreement with Iran after a 13-year standoff over its disputed nuclear program.
In return for curbs on its nuclear program for at least 10 years, Iran will be freed from Western and UN sanctions that have crippled its economy.
Israel has slammed the deal as a “historic mistake.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had called for a “better deal” that would have dismantled Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The deal allows International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to visit suspect Iranian facilities, though the inspections may only take place some 24 days after a question arises. Netanyahu has pointed to that period as a major loophole in the deal, allowing Iran to hide potential misdeeds.
Hammond disputed that argument. “Hiding things is not so easy in the days of 24-hour satellite surveillance,” he said.
Hammond and Netanyahu publicly sparred over the nuclear deal earlier on Thursday, veering off prepared comments to exchange sharply different positions toward the agreement.
Hammond’s comments came a day after he told the British Parliament that Israel wants a “permanent state of standoff” with Iran and suggested it wouldn’t have welcomed any kind of nuclear deal.
“I don’t believe there is any deal we could have done that Israel would have embraced,” Hammond said in the Thursday night interview. “The prime minister made it clear he didn’t think it was a good idea to do a deal with Iran.”
Hammond also reminded viewers that the reason for the sanctions was “to bring Iran to the table.”
Netanyahu told Hammond earlier in the day Thursday that his assessment was wrong.
“Israelis know better than anyone else the cost of permanent conflict with Iran and it is wrong to suggest that Israel wants such an outcome,” he said. “But Israelis also know exactly what would happen if we ever let our guard down.”