U.S. announces 'Action Group' to coordinate anti-Iran efforts

Sergio Conner
August 18, 2018

"Brian Hook, who has been appointed as special representative and chief of a new Iran Action Group at the State Department, said the USA would issue waivers from sanctions to countries that have made efforts to reduce their Iranian oil purchases".

Hook will lead a newly established Iran Action Group to coordinate the State Department's pressure campaign on Iran, Pompeo told a news conference. In addition to its nuclear and missile programs, the administration has repeatedly criticized Iran for supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad, Shiite rebels in Yemen and anti-Israel groups.

Brian Hook, a veteran diplomat, will lead the group with the new title of special representative for Iran.

"From its aspirations of nuclear weapons, its support for terrorism, its cyber activity, its proliferation of ballistic missiles and much more, the Iran regime has been a force for instability and violence", Hook said today at the State Department, adding that another priority will be on an effort to "continue to build the broadest level of worldwide support for our strategy".

Pompeo elucidated that the IAG would play a crucial role in reviewing, coordinating and directing "all aspects of the State Department's Iran-related activity", adding that the group would report directly to him. "The Iranian people and the world are demanding that Iran finally act like a normal nation".

USA officials have repeatedly said they only pressuring for a change in Iranian behavior and not change in the regime itself.

The Trump administration's exit from the Iran deal is also creating internal divisions within Iran's leadership. Other Asian importers of Iranian oil are hoping to secure waivers from the sanctions because they would be hard put to quickly find an alternative to the attractively priced Iranian crude.

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The Iran nuclear deal was signed between six countries in 2015 - Iran, US, Britain, Germany, Russia, France and China for lifting economic sanctions on Tehran in exchange for limitations to the country's nuclear programme.

Trump later offered to speak with Iranian leaders without preconditions in the hope of securing a new U.S.

"But we must see major changes in the regime's behaviour both inside and outside of its borders".

The U.S. reintroduced a first set of financial sanctions on Iran earlier this month and is due to reimpose a second, tougher set of sanctions targeting Iran's oil exports and central bank in November. "The supreme leader has said negotiations will have to wait in order to soften up America". "THERE WILL BE NO WAR, NOR WILL WE NEGOTIATE WITH THE U.S.", Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted.

Hook said the timing was "pure coincidence" and rejected comparisons between the Iran group and an earlier State Department initiative known as the "Future of Iraq Project" that was undertaken when USA policy was to promote the downfall of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Pompeo created a similar group dedicated to working on North Korea policy while he was director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Hook is expected to be replaced as policy planning chief by Kiron Skinner, a foreign policy academic and adviser to several Republican presidential candidates who served on President Donald Trump's national security transition team and very briefly at the State Department after Trump took office, according to the officials who were not authorized to publicly discuss personnel matters and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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