Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to London on Thursday urging Britain to end talks with Iran on the nuclear deal.
Netanyahu meets the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, for hastily organized talks in which he should urge Britain to reject a French plan to offer a $ 15 billion credit line to help Iran sell oil.
Johnson will also meet with US Vice-President Mike Pence, while Netanyahu will hold talks in London later in the day with US Defense Secretary Mark Esper. The fact that Johnson deleted his diary in the midst of internal political chaos is a tribute to Netanyahu's influence on Downing Street.
Iran and three European countries – Britain, France and Germany – have been engaged in talks to save the 2015 nuclear agreement, which has been revealed since Donald Trump withdrew from it in May last year year.
On the way to London, the Israeli leader quoted an Iranian plan to restart research on the construction of advanced nuclear centrifuges in further violation of the agreement. The plan of the centrifuge, the third step in Tehran by agreement, was announced Wednesday by Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.
"Today we were told of another violation by Iran, this time in relation to nuclear proliferation," Netanyahu said. "This joins the aggressive acts of Iran against international maritime transport and against the countries of the region, as well as its efforts to carry out murderous attacks against the state of Israel, efforts that have not ceased.
"This is not the time to hold talks with Iran; this is the time to increase pressure on Iran … These are important issues for the state of Israel at all times, but above all now ".
The suspicion, however, is that Netanyahu's lightning visit to London is partly designed to strengthen its international position and play the security card in view of very nice elections in two weeks.
But the times offer the Israeli prime minister a platform to pour cold water on the Iranian proposal of Emmanuel Macron – a plan that has already been received with deep skepticism by the American special representative in Iran, Brian Hook, while he announced new plans on Wednesday to sanction efforts Iranians to export oil.
Trump for his part reiterated his willingness to meet Rouhani, but stated that there will be no easing of US sanctions. "It's not happening," he said. "Not gonna happen."
It would be a diplomatic coup for Israel and the United States if they could distance Britain from the Macron plan and, even more, from the nuclear agreement.
Faced with pressure from the White House for a year, the United Kingdom continued to ally with France and Germany, the two original signatories of the 2015 agreement, insisting that Iran did not violate an agreement which remained the best way to prevent nuclear proliferation in the region.
Many European diplomats even now argue that the restrictive door of diplomacy remains open because Iran has announced that it will take the next step on centrifuges only if, in two months, no progress has been made in the sale of oil. Even Iran has not announced any steps to increase its uranium enrichment level.
The French plan, leaked largely from Iran, proposes a $ 15 billion credit line as an advance payment for the purchase of Iranian oil. The plan calls for the United States' willingness to restore exemptions from sanctions against countries that buy Iranian oil. The credit line would be the first step in a gradual program to address wider concerns with Iran, including its ballistic missiles, regional behavior and the renewal of the nuclear agreement. Britain has yet to say anything publicly in support of the plan, but stressed that the plan was led by the French.
But given the American and Israeli approach, Macron's chances of success seem to diminish. Rouhani also refused to support a meeting with Trump, probably at the UN General Assembly in New York, and the Iranian decision on centrifuges disappointed the French.
According to the agreement, Iran was allowed to maintain limited quantities of first generation IR-1 centrifuges in two nuclear power plants. The successful development of more advanced centrifuges, IR-4, IR-6 and IR-8, would allow the production of limited quantities of material for a potential nuclear bomb at a higher speed.
"From Friday we will see research and development on different types of centrifuges and new centrifuges and also on everything that is needed to enrich uranium in an accelerated manner," said Rouhani. "All limits to our research and development will be eliminated on Friday."
One step away from the clash, the owner of the British-flagged ship Stena Empire confirmed that seven members of the crew were released by the Iranian authorities.