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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 September 2018

Mike Pompeo sets up new taskforce to keep pressure on Iran

Secretary of state names Brian Hook as head of group which will ‘force Tehran to act like a normal nation’

Secretary of state Mike Pompeo announces the creation of the Iran Action Group at the State Department. AP Photo
Secretary of state Mike Pompeo announces the creation of the Iran Action Group at the State Department. AP Photo

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, moved to increase pressure on Iran on Thursday as he unveiled a new group tasked with thwarting Tehran’s regional aggression and forcing it to “act like a normal nation”.

The group will be headed by Brian Hook, a State Department official who previously led efforts to negotiate changes to the Iran nuclear deal before Washington withdrew in May.

The new team will co-ordinate the Trump administration’s post-nuclear deal approach to Iran and build support for the strategy abroad.

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The US last week re-imposed sanctions that were eased under the nuclear deal and has steadily ramped up pressure on Iran to stop its “malign activities” in the region.

In May, Mr Pompeo set out 12 new demands on Iran that include ending support for terrorist groups, giving international inspectors unqualified access to sites throughout the country, and ending support for Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Mr Hook, who will serve as special representative to Iran, said: “A lot of our work is going to be built around advancing those 12 areas, mostly around nukes, terrorism and the detention of American citizens.”

In addition to its nuclear and missile programmes, the administration has repeatedly criticised Iran for supporting Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and anti-Israel groups. It has also in recent weeks stepped up criticism of Iran’s human rights record.

A second round of sanctions targeting Iran’s oil industry is due to come into force on November 4.

Mr Hook said that the US policy of maximum economic pressure was designed to prevent Iranian support for destabilising groups.

“When you look at the kind of money that Iran provides to Assad and Shia militias, Lebanese Hezbollah, it is billions and billions of dollars,” he said. “And we need to get at drying up those revenue streams.”

Mr Pompeo said the Iran action group would be responsible for directing, reviewing and co-ordinating all aspects of the State Department’s Iran-related activities.

“For nearly 40 years the regime in Tehran has been responsible for a torrent of violent and destabilising behaviour against the United States, our allies and partners, and indeed the Iranian people themselves,” he said.

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Exclusive: Pompeo speaks to The National

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Mr Pompeo said the group would work with US government agencies and in partnership with foreign allies to bring Iran into line.

“Our hope is that one day soon we can reach a new agreement with Iran but we must see major changes in the regime’s behaviour both inside and outside of its borders. The Iranian people and the world are demanding that Iran finally act like a normal nation,” he said.

“The Iran action group will drive daily progress on these objectives and I hope do much more.”

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