Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran as an act of spite towards his predecessor Barack Obama, according to the latest release of leaked papers from Britain’s former ambassador to the US.
The Mail on Sunday published further cables from Kim Darroch in spite of a controversial Metropolitan Police warning that the media should desist from publishing the leaked information.
The newspaper insisted that the publication was fully justified and the police have partially backed down after a torrent of criticism from politicians and the media that they were trying to stifle press freedom.
Sir Kim was forced to quit as ambassador last week after a batch of leaked cables were published in which he told his political masters in London that the Trump administration was “inept” and “incompetent”.
The latest revelations feature Sir Kim’s assessment of why Mr Trump had committed an act of “diplomatic vandalism” in pulling the US out of the 2015 deal brokered by Mr Obama to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“The outcome illustrated the paradox of this White House: you got exceptional access, seeing everyone short of the president,” he wrote on attempts in 2018 by the British government, including the then foreign secretary Boris Johnson, to change Mr Trump’s mind.
The newspaper reported that after Mr Johnson returned to the UK from his diplomatic mission last year, Sir Kim wrote that Mr Trump appeared to be abandoning the nuclear deal over his dislike of Mr Obama.
“On the substance, the administration is set upon an act of diplomatic vandalism, seemingly for ideological and personality reasons — it was Obama’s deal.”
The revelations are not as inflammatory as the first batch of cables released last week in the Mail on Sunday, that prompted an extraordinary diplomatic row and fierce criticism of Mr Johnson.
Sir Kim resigned after Mr Trump said he would no longer deal with him, while Mr Johnson was widely condemned for failing to stand up for the ambassador, who has returned to the UK for planned leave.
Writing in the Observer on Sunday, former foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind said Mr Johnson’s behaviour did not bode well if he becomes prime minister later this month. “He could easily have distanced himself from the president without using strong language to attack him,” he wrote. “He did not even try.”
The story took another twist on Friday when the Met advised the media not to publish further leaked documents although it retreated under a storm of protest, including most of the national UK press.
“The Metropolitan Police respect the rights of the media and has no intention of seeking to prevent editors from publishing stories in the public interest in a liberal democracy,” Neil Basu, assistant commissioner, said on Saturday.
However he said the force had “received legal advice that had caused us to start a criminal enquiry into the leak of the documents as a potential breach of the Official Secrets Act”.
He added: “We have also been told the publication of these specific documents, now knowing they may be a breach of the OSA, could also constitute a criminal offence and one that carries no public interest defence.”
A spokesman for the Mail on Sunday said its latest revelations were in the public interest and revealed “important information” on the UK’s attempts to stop Mr Trump abandoning the Iran nuclear deal.
He added: “What could be more in the public interest than a better understanding of how this position was reached, which may have serious consequences for world peace?”
The Foreign Office said it was “not news” that Britain and the US had different views on their approach to preventing Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon.