Pompeo announces new team for Iran strategy

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday unveiled a new team to coordinate the Trump administration’s post-nuclear deal approach to Iran and bolster support for the strategy abroad.

The Iran Action Group will be helmed by Brian Hook, who will receive the title of special representative for Iran. Pompeo told reporters that the coalition is charged with “directing, reviewing and coordinating all aspects of the State Department’s Iran-related activity” and will report directly to him.

The main objective of the new U.S. strategy is to change the behavior of the Iranian regime by applying economic pressure and diplomatic isolation to squeeze Tehran. Hook said Thursday that out of 12 goals laid out by Pompeo earlier this year, the group will key in on eliminating Iran’s nuclear arsenal, choking off Iran’s ability to finance terrorist groups, and securing the release of and putting an end to the practice of “arbitrarily detained” American citizens.

Another emphasis of the coalition will be building “the broadest level of international support” for the new U.S. strategy, and Hook said he had productive discussions Wednesday with French, German and British officials about Iran. Those allies, who opposed the White House’s decision in May to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, have said they intend to continue doing business with Iran despite the threat of secondary sanctions from the U.S. Hook would not rule out that possibility.

He applauded President Donald Trump’s refusal to recertify the deal in May, arguing that the move freed the State Department to diplomatically “pursue the entire range of Iran’s threats,” which he pointed out are also concerns held by U.S. allies.

And asked if the formation of the group, which comes nearly 65 years to the day since the 1953 coup in Iran, intends to oversee regime change, Hook responded that the timing was “pure coincidence.”

The group was not formed with the goal of establishing a dialogue between Tehran and Washington, Hook said, adding that “normal relations can only begin after we see Iranian regime is serious about changing its behavior.”

But “those two things occur on a parallel track,” he said.

Source: https://www.politico.com