WASHINGTON – Secretary of state Mike Pompeo is forming a dedicated group to coordinate and implement U.S. policy in the direction of Iran as a Trump administration moves forward with efforts to force changes in the Islamic Republic of behaviour after the withdrawal of the Iran nuclear deal.
The State Department said Pompeo will announce the creation of the Iran Action Group on Thursday. Officials said that the group will be led by Brian Hook, who is currently the State Department’s director of policy planning. Hook led and the Trump of administration of the ultimately unsuccessful attempt to negotiate changes in the nuclear deal with the European allies for the president in May decided to withdraw from the agreement.
Since the withdrawal of the administration again imposed sanctions that were eased under the deal, and steadily increases the pressure on Iran to try to get it to stop with what he describes as a “malicious activity in the region. In addition to the nuclear and missile programmes, the government has repeatedly criticised Iran for supporting the Syrian President Bashar Assad, Shiite rebels in Yemen, and anti-Israel groups. It also has in recent weeks stepped up criticism of Iran’s human rights record, and to cooperate with other nations to curb their imports of Iranian oil.
The administration is warning Iran’s oil customers that they will be faced with U.S. sanctions in November unless they significantly reduce their imports with a view to eliminating them completely. It has also said companies and governments in Europe, that they also may be subject to sanctions if they violate, disregard or try to subvert the re-US sanctions are imposed.
In his new job, Hook is to oversee the implementation of the administration of the entire Iran policy, the officials said. Pompeo and other officials have denied that the administration is looking for a change of regime in Iran and they only like to see the government change course. Pompeo made of a similar group dedicated to working on North Korea policy when he was director of the CIA.
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 brief at the State Department after Trump took office, according to officials who were not permitted to publicly discuss personnel matters and spoke on condition of anonymity.