May Tells Gulf U.K. Vigilant Over Iran as She Backs Accord

  • Trump has called nuclear accord ‘worst deal ever negotiated’
  • U.K. premier in Bahrain for summit talks with GCC leaders

British Prime Minister Theresa May meets Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah (R) at the Kuwait villa on Dec. 6.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May told a summit of Gulf leaders the nuclear agreement with Iran is “vitally important” for security, while stressing Britain remains “clear-eyed” about the threat posed by the country.

“We secured a deal which has neutralized the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons for over a decade,” May told the Gulf Cooperation Council in Sakhir Palace, Bahrain on Wednesday. “That was vitally important for regional security. But we must also work together to push back against Iran’s aggressive regional actions, whether in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Syria or in the Gulf itself.”

Theresa May at the Gulf Cooperation Summit, Dec. 7.

Photographer: Carl Court/Getty Images

Iran signed the deal to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions with the U.S., the U.K. and other world powers in July 2015. U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has called the accord the “worst deal ever negotiated” and plans to nominate one of its leading critics, retired Marine General James Mattis, as defense secretary.

May is in Bahrain to attend the GCC summit and shore up Britain’s trade and security relations with the Gulf states. In talks with the leaders of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia, she highlighted Iran’s pattern of destabilizing regional activity, including sending forces to Syria to shore up the Assad regime, providing support to Houthi rebels in Yemen and undermining stability in Lebanon and Iraq.

On her way to Bahrain, May sought to deflect criticism she has failed to build bridges with Trump since his shock election last month. She told reporters traveling with her that whenever she has talked to the president-elect, they have discussed “the depth of our special relationship and the fact we want to maintain that and build on it for the future,” adding that “he was very easy to talk to.”

May is seeking to offset some of the shocks from Brexit and called for ties with Gulf states to be strengthened "at every level." while in Bahrain, she announced measures to boost aviation security in the region and new five-year multiple-entry visas for U.K. businesses in Saudi Arabia.

Her visit has drawn criticism that Britain is ignoring human-rights issues in favor of bolstering economic ties, with the opposition Liberal Democrats dubbing the trip “the shabby face” of Brexit.

"We will succeed by deepening our security cooperation, expanding our trade and working harder than ever to build economies and societies that work for everyone," May said.

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