This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced the appointment of a special representative for Iran to coordinate U.S. policy as the administration looks to ramp up pressure on Tehran after pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal.
In a briefing on August 16, Pompeo said Brian Hook, currently the State Department’s director of policy planning, will head the new Iran Action Group (IAG) and will coordinate actions among various U.S. agencies.
Pompeo said that “we’re committed to a whole-government effort to change the Iranian regime’s behavior, and the Iran Action group will ensure that the State Department remains closely synchronized with our interagency partners.”
He added that the IAG will also coordinate policy with the “growing” number of nations that share the U.S. understanding “of the Iranian threat.”
Hook told the briefing that the IAG was part of U.S. efforts to deal with the wide range of “malign” Iranian activities, including its “aspirations for nuclear weapons,” support for terrorism, cyberactivities, and the proliferation of ballistic missiles.
Hook, who has held several positions within the State Department, appeared to play down remarks on July 30 by U.S. President Donald Trump that he would be willing to meet President Hassan Rohani with “no preconditions” at “anytime.”
He said it was the “burden” of Iranian officials to change their behavior to create the possibility of dialogue.
Hook referenced 12 requirements outlined by U.S. officials earlier — “mostly around nukes, terrorism, and the detention of American citizens” — that Tehran would need to show progress on before closer ties or sanctions relief could be considered.
It was also up to Iran to settle internal differences between relative moderates such as Rohani and hard-line religious leaders, such as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he said.
Pompeo and Hook did not provide details of the IAG or name other members of the group, saying only that a team had been assembled.
Trump complained bitterly about Iran’s actions during his election campaign and into his term of office.
He has accused Tehran of violating the spirit of the 2015 nuclear deal Iran signed with six world powers and of financing insurgent violence in the Middle East, a charge Iran has denied.
Trump pulled the United States out of the nuclear deal in May and, in early August, reimposed economic sanctions that were lifted under the deal, helping to severely cripple the Iranian economy.
Trump has called on Iran to negotiate a new deal that would entirely rid Iran of nuclear weapons capability and also curb its development of ballistic missiles, which has been a point of contention between Tehran and Washington for years.
Despite the pressure on Iran, the U.S. administration has consistently said it is not seeking regime change in Iran but a “change in behavior.”