Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday formed a group to coordinate and run U.S. policy toward Iran as the Trump administration moves ahead with efforts to force changes in the Islamic Republic’s behavior after withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Accusing Iran of unleashing “a torrent of violence and destabilizing behavior against the United States, our allies, our partners and, indeed, the Iranian people themselves,” Pompeo announced the creation of the Iran Action Group, which he said would drive administration policy in Washington and overseas.
He said the administration remains willing to talk to Iran but that in order to do so “we must see major changes in the regime’s behavior both inside and outside its borders.”
Pompeo named Brian Hook, who is currently the State Department’s director of policy planning, to run the group with the title of special representative for Iran. Hook led the administration’s ultimately unsuccessful attempt to negotiate changes to the nuclear deal with European allies before President Donald Trump decided in May to pull out of the accord.
Since withdrawing, the administration has re-imposed sanctions that were eased under the deal and has steadily ramped up pressure on Iran to try to get it to stop what it describes as “malign activities” in the region. In addition to its nuclear and missile programs, the administration has repeatedly criticized Iran for supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad, Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, Shiite rebels in Yemen and anti-Israel groups.
It has also in recent weeks stepped up criticism of Iran’s human rights record and is working with other nations to curb their imports of Iranian oil.
The administration is warning Iran’s oil customers that they will face U.S. sanctions in November unless they significantly reduce their imports with an eye on eliminating them entirely. It has also told businesses and governments in Europe that they may also be subject to penalties if they violate, ignore or attempt to subvert the re-imposed U.S. sanctions.