The Bishop of Chester has attacked President Donald Trump for pulling the US out of the Iranian nuclear deal saying it is likely to strengthen the hand of extremists in Tehran.
In 2015 Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities following suspicions it had been trying to develop a bomb – in return the West lifted crippling economic sanctions.
Now Trump says the US will withdraw from the deal arguing it is ‘defective at its core’ and will reimpose sanctions.
But Rt Rev Dr Peter Forster , Bishop of Chester, who sits in the House of Lords, fears the move will create a more divided and unstable world.
He said: “My Lords, I wonder whether the greatest danger here is that the approach of President Trump is completely counterproductive, in precisely encouraging the more hard-line and reactionary elements in Iran.
“Given that there has in fact been some good movement in the past year, with President Rouhani being re-elected against the more hard-line candidate and some changes on the legal front in the last six months, the danger is that this is going to provoke a deep anti-American, anti-western reaction that is precisely contrary to our fundamental thrust, which should be to promote the moderate elements in Iran.
“If so, what can we do—quite apart from the issue around the treaty—to promote the more moderate elements in Iran, which have a real traction when it comes to elections?”
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State, responded on behalf of the government to stress the Prime Minister and foreign secretary Boris Johnson were not walking away from the deal which was originally agreed between Iran and the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany.
He said: “The right reverend Prelate raises an important element within the context of how the American withdrawal from the deal will be perceived in Iran. We have taken a very progressive, constructive and vital step forward, through the showing of strength of E3 unity.
“The President of France and the Chancellor of Germany, together with our Prime Minister, have issued a joint statement in that regard. As I said earlier, that translates the fact that not all the West shares the opinion of the United States in pulling away from the deal.
“It is important to communicate that effectively, as my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary did today to Foreign Minister Zarif, and we continue to make that point consistently in all our dealings with Iran.
“On there being different voices within Iran, we saw President Rouhani step forward and give his commitment. We will continue to support all efforts to keep Iran within the deal and all international efforts to ensure that the deal itself remains alive.”