Fox & Friends diplomacy: Boris Johnson urges Trump to stay in Iran deal

UK foreign secretary also writes op-ed for New York Times as Trump says he will announce decision at 2pm on Tuesday

Boris Johnson, the British foreign secretary, pleaded with Donald Trump not to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal on Monday. Johnson, in the US but not scheduled to meet Trump in person, appealed instead via an opinion piece in the New York Times and a more direct channel: an appearance on Fox & Friends, the presidents news show of choice.

The deadline for Trump to re-certify the deal falls on Saturday, 12 May, but the president tweeted later on Monday that he would announce his decision on Tuesday, from the White House at 2:00pm.

Also on Monday, the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, suggested Iran could remain in the pact if the US dropped out. Speaking live on state TV, Rouhani said getting rid of Americas mischievous presence will be fine for Iran if other signatories continued to be committed.

Johnson appeared on Fox after the controversial TV medic Dr Oz, who has just been appointed to Trumps Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition alongside the New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Lou Ferrigno, star of The Incredible Hulk TV show.

The president is right to see flaws in [the deal] and he set a very reasonable challenge to the world, said Johnson, offering praise of the president that he would repeat. He said: Look, Iran is behaving badly, has a tendency to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles. Weve got to stop that. Weve got to push back on what Iran is doing in the region. Weve got to be tougher.

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Johnson pleaded with Trump not to throw the baby out with the bathwater and pledged to work with him to improve the deal. Elements which needed fixing, he said, included the sunset clause that meant after 2025, the current deal allows Iran to go forward fast with enrichment programmes, which could lead to a nuclear weapon, and no sanctions go back on.

If Trump did scrap the deal, Johnson said, he would have to answer the question what next? Johnson asked: Are we seriously saying that we will bomb those facilities is that really a realistic possibility?

Unlike the French president, Emmanuel Macron who this weekend said scrapping the deal could lead to war and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, Johnson was not scheduled to meet Trump. He was instead to sit down with the vice-president, Mike Pence, and Trumps new national security adviser, the Bush-era hawk John Bolton.

Under assertive questioning from the Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade, Johnson tried to warn of the consequences of attacking Iran, a course Bolton has supported.

Let me just remind you, he said, if they do get a nuclear weapon youre going to get an arms race in the Middle East. Youre going to have the Saudis wanting one, the Egyptians wanting one, the Emiratis. Its already a very, very dangerous state at the moment, we dont want to go down that road. There doesnt seem to me at the moment to be a viable military solution.

Johnson also defended the terms and operations of the deal, saying Iran was not just being trusted and was in compliance according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. He said the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahus excellent presentation on supposed Iranian contravention of the deal last week only went up to 2003.

Trumps tweets often closely follow discussions on Fox & Friends. On Monday, he did not mention Johnson or answer any of his points.

The United States does not need John Kerrys possibly illegal Shadow Diplomacy on the very badly negotiated Iran Deal, Trump wrote, referring to reported efforts by the former secretary of state to salvage the deal that critics, including the Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy on Monday, have said may violate the Logan Act of 1799, which prohibits diplomatic efforts by private citizens.

Kerry, Trump added, was the one that created this MESS in the first place!

Fox & Friends hosts Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt and Brian Kilmeade, in 2016. Photograph: Richard Drew/AP

In his piece for the New York Times, Johnson began by quoting Winston Churchill about whom he has written a book and a bust of whom Trump placed in the Oval Office with much fanfare at the start of his presidency.

Churchills famous conclusion was that democracy constituted the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried, Johnson wrote. So it is with the Iran nuclear agreement that President Trump is now reviewing.

The deal has weaknesses, certainly, Johnson wrote, saying Britain was working with Germany, France and the US to remedy them. But he added: Do not forget how this agreement has helped to avoid a possible catastrophe.

Johnson listed restrictions placed on Irans nuclear programme, which he called handcuffs. I see no possible advantage in casting them aside, he wrote. Only Iran would gain from abandoning the restrictions on its nuclear programme.

Johnson praised Trumps statements on Iran and said Britain shares his concerns about Irans support for terrorist groups, its behaviour in cyberspace and its long-range missile program.

He also appealed to Trumps pride in progress made with a nuclear-armed state, North Korea. He also, perhaps dangerously, seemed to claim a portion of credit.

We all played our part in helping the Trump administration maximize the pressure on North Korea, Johnson wrote, a strategy that now appears to be bearing fruit.

In his speech on Monday, Rouhani said: If we can get what we want from a deal without America, then Iran will continue to remain committed to the deal. What Iran wants is our interests to be guaranteed by its non-American signatories In that case, getting rid of Americas mischievous presence will be fine for Iran.

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