If the US goes to war with Iran, you can blame Donald Trump’s personal disdain for Barack Obama, nothing more, nothing less.
That’s according to another batch of leaked diplomatic cables from Sir Kim Darroch, Britain’s former ambassador to the US who resigned last week after Trump branded him “a very stupid, wacky pompous fool” in a series of tweets following revelations that Darroch once called the administration “incompetent”.
Jeremy Hunt wasn’t amused with Trump’s antics and neither, generally speaking, was Theresa May. After all, Darroch was just doing his job.
On Sunday, the Mail published the details of another cache of cables, and according to Darroch, Trump’s decision to scrap the nuclear deal was an act of “diplomatic vandalism” aimed at spiting his predecessor.
This doesn’t come as complete surprise – after all, there’s a sense in which Trump’s entire domestic and foreign policy agenda revolved on undoing anything and everything Obama accomplished. But it his highly disconcerting considering recent events which have brought the US and Iran to the brink of war.
Darroch’s cable was sent to London just hours after then foreign secretary Boris Johnson met with Mike Pompeo in a last ditch effort to convince Trump’s closest advisors to prevail upon the president that abandoning the Iran deal would be a potentially historic mistake. To wit, from the Mail:
Britain’s Ambassador to the US, lamented that Mr Trump’s Administration ‘is set upon an act of diplomatic vandalism’.
In a blunt assessment, Sir Kim wrote that Mr Trump appeared to be abandoning the Iran nuclear deal for ‘personality reasons’ –because it had been agreed by his predecessor Barack Obama.
And Sir Kim suggested there were splits among the President’s closest advisers and claimed the White House lacked a ‘day-after’ strategy on what to do after withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the official name for the Iran deal.
As the Mail goes on to recount, Johnson’s May 2018 visit to the US was a somewhat frantic affair. Darroch scheduled meetings with John Bolton, John Kelly, Ivanka and Jared Kushner. He also appeared on Fox & Friends, which Boris apparently knew was the second-best way to get through to Trump himself barring an actual face-to-face.
“What if the Iranians do rush for a nuclear weapon?”, Johnson asked, while on the network. “Are we seriously saying that we’re going to bomb those facilities? Is that really a realistic possibility or do we work with what we’ve got and push back on Iran together?” Here is the clip:
This may in part explain why Johnson – who is set to become prime minister – was reluctant to throw his support behind Darroch during a debate last Tuesday. Presumably, he realized it was just a matter of time before this news was leaked too. During the debate with Hunt, Johnson said Trump had been “dragged into a British political debate”, and after acknowledging that it wasn’t “necessarily the right thing” for the president to tweet insane things about Darroch, he refused to commit to keeping him on. “Whoever leaked that deserves to be eviscerated”, Johnson said. “I, and I alone will decide who takes politically sensitive jobs such as ambassador to the US”.
The Mail goes on to detail the Iran cable further:
In the two-page summary, written by Sir Kim to Mr Johnson and sent to the Foreign Office, No 10, the Ministry of Defence and elsewhere in Whitehall, the Ambassador revealed how the Foreign Secretary said he ‘recognised the flaws and inadequacies in the deal’ but argued the White House should stick with it. Paraphrasing Mr Johnson’s argument, he wrote: ‘A deal which established a break-out period of more than a year, took away two-thirds of Iran’s centrifuges, reduced their enriched uranium stockpiles by 95 per cent, concreted over the heavy water reactor [potentially used to produce plutonium that could be used in a bomb] and included an exceptionally rigorous inspection regime, should not be thrown away.’
Although Pence was keen to emphasize that the administration was looking for a new deal, not a prolonged “no deal” scenario, Darroch says the vice president, Pompeo and Bolton were completely unable to explain why Trump was so hell-bent on abandoning the deal. “None of the three could articulate why the President was determined to withdraw, beyond his campaign promises”, Darroch wrote. “And, even when you pressed, none had anything much to say about the day after, or a Plan B, beyond reimposition of US sanctions”.
He continued. “I’m grateful to you for coming out on short notice and undertaking such a packed programme”, Darroch told Johnson. “The outcome illustrated the paradox of this White House: you got exceptional access, seeing everyone short of the President; but on the substance, the Administration is set upon an act of diplomatic vandalism, seemingly for ideological and personality reasons – it was Obama’s deal”.
Read more on the Iran standoff