Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Thursday that the United States has formed an “Iran Action Group” within the State Department to guide Washington’s post-nuclear deal policy. The group will coordinate all activity and policy related to Iran, including inter-agency initiatives after President Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear deal in May.
Pompeo told reporters the action group would be “directing, reviewing and coordinating all aspects of the State Department’s Iran-related activity.”
It is to be headed by current State Department director of policy planning Brian Hook, who will in turn report directly to Pompeo. Hook has been a lead negotiator attempting to pressure European allies to significantly alter prior commitments related to the international deal.
“Our hope is that one day soon we can reach an agreement with Iran but we must see major changes in the regime both inside and outside of its borders,” said Pompeo, and added, “The Iranian people and the world are demanding that Iran finally act like a normal nation.”
Echoing prior statements which suggest the administration could be exploring ways to foster regime change, Pompeo said the State Dept. is committed to a “whole of government effort to change the Iranian regime behavior.”
Hook also addressed the briefing, saying he’ll be guiding an “elite teams” of foreign affairs officials to implement a “new strategy” which “addresses all manifestation of the Iranian threat and the new Iran Action Group will be focused on implementing that strategy.”
Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook: The #Iran regime has been a force for instability and violence. Our new strategy addresses all manifestations of the Iranian threat, and the new Iran Action Group will be focused on implementing that strategy. pic.twitter.com/IkZbK4ri6a
— Department of State (@StateDept) August 16, 2018
The group, Hooker said, will “play a critical role in leading our efforts within the Department and executing the president’s Iran strategy.”
This will chiefly include attempting to ensure European and other allies conform to the White House’s re-imposed sanctions to stop what it has called Iran’s “malign activities” in the Middle East.
This will involve ratcheting up pressure to curb European imports of Iranian oil, especially as a November 4th deadline approaches in which sanctions will be reimposed on those still still dealing with Iran.
Since Trump’s pullout of the JCPOA, the US has demanded a complete renegotiation based on new terms while accusing Tehran of still seeking nuclear weapons, something which the European Union has balked at, refusing to comply.
But the new “Iran Action Group” is sure to also continue previously revealed plans for regime destabilization, including a US-sponsored 24/7 Farsi-language channel to combat Tehran’s “fake news” in order to push back one what Pompeo earlier in the summer described as “the long-ignored voice of the Iranian people”.
And in early July it was revealed that a high level joint US-Israeli “working group” had already been meeting for months which involved top White House and State Department officials, including National Security Advisor John Bolton, which reportedly held informal strategy sessions discussing scenarios of pursuing regime change in Iran.
Axios reported at the time: “Israel and the United States formed a joint working group a few months ago that is focused on internal efforts to encourage protests within Iran and pressure the country’s government.”
Pompeo’s new initiative appears to be a formalization of plans connected with the joint working group, worrisome for the fact that both Bolton and the Israelis have long advocated for the US to wage preemptive war on Iran.
On Monday, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared that Iran would never enter direct alks with the Trump White House, stating in a tweet, “THERE WILL BE NO WAR, NOR WILL WE NEGOTIATE WITH THE U.S.”.
With Iran’s economy plummeting, and with Washington formalizing inter-agency cooperation for further action targeting Tehran, it appears the two sides could be headed toward an Iraq-style collision course — whether this takes place months from now, or years.
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