U.K.'s Boris Johnson Tells Iran His Government Is Committed to Nuclear Deal Despite Trump's Pressure

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whom Donald Trump has previously called a "friend," disregarded the president's call to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, telling Iran's President Hassan Rouhani that his country remains committed to the international agreement.

Johnson spoke to Rouhani on Thursday morning, after a speech by Trump on Wednesday, urging European allies to join the U.S. in its hardline approach to Iran. After Trump's May 2018 decision to withdraw form the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known commonly as the Iran nuclear deal, the treaty's other signatories – the U.K., the European Union, Germany, France, Russia and China – all criticized the president's action and have remained supportive of the pact.

"The Prime Minister underlined the U.K.'s continued commitment to the JCPOA and to ongoing dialogue to avoid nuclear proliferation and reduce tensions," Johnson's office said in an official statement after his call with Rouhani.

Boris Johnson and Javad Zarif
Boris Johnson shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif during a meeting in Tehran, Iran on December 9, 2017 ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty

The statement also noted that the British and Iranian leaders "discussed the situation in the region following the death of Qassem Soleimani and the Prime Minister called for an end to hostilities."

Tensions flared between Washington and Tehran over the past week following Trump's controversial decision to carry out a military strike last week to take out Soleimani, a prominent Iranian commander, as he arrived in Iraq for meetings. Iranian leaders quickly vowed "revenge" and on Tuesday carried out missile strikes targeting military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq, which did not result in any casualties. Although analysts and Washington lawmakers have expressed fear of further escalation, Trump and Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif both suggested on Wednesday that their respective countries did not plan to take further action for the time being.

During his call with Johnson on Thursday, Rouhani argued that the U.K. and Europe were made safer due to Soleimani's military actions against the militant extremist group Islamic State (or ISIS). "London would not have been safe without [the] devotion of Lieutenant General Qas[s]em Soleimani," the Iranian president told Johnson, Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Under the JCPOA, which was signed under the administration of former President Barack Obama, Iran was offered sanctions relief and international investment in exchange for reining in its nuclear program. The United Nations nuclear watchdog monitored Iran's actions, consistently reporting that the Persian Gulf nation remained in compliance with the treaty.

Mourners for Soleimani
Mourners carry the coffin of slain Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani inside the Shrine of Imam Hussein in the holy Iraqi city of Karbala, during a funeral procession on January 4 MOHAMMED SAWAF/AFP/Getty

But Trump had long criticized Obama and the deal, deciding to withdraw from the accord and reimplement sanctions against the country in May 2018. That decision was condemned by the European signatories as well as Russia and China, as they noted that the agreement had been working to curb Iran's undesired behavior. Iran continued to remain in compliance with its obligations until May 2019, a year after Trump withdrew. It then began taking steps back from its commitments over the past few months.

Following the killing of Soleimani last Friday, Iran announced on Sunday that it would no longer abide by the international agreement. However, Iran said that it would remain open to returning to its obligations if all the other signatories–including the U.S–also abided by the deal.