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The U.S. is trying to bully Britain to side with Trump on Iran

British businesses were told to cease trading with Tehran or face “serious consequences."

by Tim Hume
Aug 13 2018, 12:22pm

Getty Images

Britain should back the United States in its dispute over the Iran nuclear deal, the U.S. ambassador to the U.K. warned ­Sunday — threatening British companies with “serious consequences” if they continued to trade with Tehran.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, U.S. ambassador Woody Johnson said Britain should break rank with its European neighbours, who are working to keep the 2015 accord alive, and align itself with President Donald Trump. The White House pulled the U.S. out of the landmark deal in May, resulting in the first tranche of U.S. sanctions on Iran being reimposed last week.

In the article, Johnson urged the British government to rethink its position on the deal, under which the signatories agreed to lift sanctions on Iran in return for limits on its nuclear programme. He called for a “united front” among Western signatories to force Tehran to change its disruptive behaviour, and issued a stark ultimatum to British businesses, telling then to cease trading with Iran or face “serious consequences” for their dealings with America.

“It’s time to move on from the flawed 2015 deal,” he wrote, arguing it had failed to rein in Iran’s dangerous activities on the world stage, which had only become bolder since signing the accord.

“We are asking global Britain to use its considerable diplomatic power and influence and join us as we lead a concerted global effort towards a genuinely comprehensive agreement.”

Johnson’s ultimatum ratchets up the tensions between the allies over Iran, in the first test of the relationship since Trump’s visit to the U.K. last month.

It was published just days after British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt joined his European counterparts in signing a statement agreeing to work to block the impact of U.S. reprisals on European businesses that continue to trade with Iran. The statement from Britain, France, and Germany said the deal was "working and delivering on its goal" and said they "deeply regret" the reimposition of U.S. sanctions.

Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said Tuesday that Washington had “not got this right,” and said his government was prepared to defy Trump on the issue. “Sometimes you need to take a stand against friends,” he told the BBC.

After the sanctions snapped back last week, Trump warned in a tweet that countries trading with Iran would "NOT be doing business with the United States."

Despite Europe’s efforts to safeguard its companies from the effects of U.S. sanctions, the measures have scared many large companies away from doing business in Iran.

READ MORE: European companies are already fleeing Iran due to U.S. sanctions

Law week, German automaker Daimler became the latest major European company to announce it had suspended its operations in Iran “until further notice according to applicable sanctions.”

Iran has recently been grappling with a plummeting currency and widespread protests against high prices and corruption. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted Monday that the renewed U.S. sanctions were not the main reason for the country’s problems.

“Today's livelihood problems do not emerge from outside, they are internal,” he tweeted. “Not that sanctions don't have an impact, but the main factor is how we handle them.”

READ: Iran tells Trump: Rejoin the nuclear accord, then we can talk

He also tweeted that there would be neither war, nor talks with the United States, following comments from Trump last month that he was prepared to talk to Iran’s leader “any time they want.”

“Recently, U.S. officials have been talking blatantly about us. Beside sanctions, they are talking about war and negotiations,” Khamenei wrote.

“In this regard, let me say a few words to the people: THERE WILL BE NO WAR, NOR WILL WE NEGOTIATE WITH THE U.S.”

He continued by stating that Iran will never talk to the Trump administration: “Even if we ever — impossible as it is — negotiated with the U.S., it would never ever be with the current U.S. administration.”

Cover image: Donald Trump gestures as he talks with US Ambassador to the United Kingdom Woody Johnson preparing to board Marine One to depart the US ambassador's residence Winfield House in London on July 13, 2018. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)