US Secretary of State names special representative for Iran

The State Department’s director of policy planning and head of the Iran Action Group, Brian Hook, left, shakes hands with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after the announcement of the Iran Action Group during a press briefing at the State department in Washington on Thursday. — AFP

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday named senior policy adviser Brian Hook as special representative for Iran.

The move came as the administration prepared to increase economic pressure on Iran to force it to end its nuclear program and support for militant groups in the Middle East.

Hook will lead the Iran Action Group to coordinate the State Department’s actions on Iran, Pompeo told a news conference.

The announcement was not a surprise. Hook has been leading the department’s talks with allies in Europe and Asia to persuade them to cut off Iran’s oil supplies as of November.

“The Iran Action Group will be responsible for directing, reviewing and coordinating all aspects of the State Department’s Iran-related activity, and will report directly to me,” Pompeo said.

Trump announced in May the United States was withdrawing from an Iran nuclear deal sealed in 2016 between Tehran and six world powers. The United States has said it would only end the sanctions if Iran allowed the negotiation of a tougher deal.

Trump has said he will be willing to meet Iran’s leader, although Tehran said the way back to talks was for the United States to return to the nuclear deal.

Washington aims to force Tehran to end its nuclear program and its support of militant groups in the Middle East, where Iran is involved in proxy wars from Yemen to Syria.

Iran and other signatories, including Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, have been working to find a way to salvage the nuclear agreement, even as the United States has started re-imposing some sanctions on Iran. — Reuters