Brian Hook, the US State Department’s hawkish special envoy for Iran, is quitting his job amid Washington’s polarizing campaign to extend the conventional arms embargo on Tehran.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed in a statement Thursday that Hook, one of the few national security officials to survive the disarray in the US foreign policy team through most of President Donald Trump’s term, was stepping down from his post.
“Special Representative Hook has been my point person on Iran for over two years and he has achieved historic results countering the Iranian regime,” Pompeo said.
“He successfully negotiated with the Iranians the release of Michael White and Xiyue Wang from prison. Special Representative Hook also served with distinction as the Director of Policy Planning and set into motion a range of new strategies that advanced the national security interests of the United States and our allies,” the top US diplomat added.
This comes only a day after the US introduced an anti-Iran resolution in the UN Security Council in an attempt to extend the soon-to-expire weapons embargo.
“We have tabled a resolution that we think accomplishes what we think needs to be accomplished,” said Hook at the virtual Aspen Security Forum on Wednesday.
Hook, who has worked as the special envoy since August 2018, will be replaced with Elliott Abrams, who currently serves as the Department’s special representative for Venezuela and is an Iran hard-liner too, Pompeo said.
Hook had been executing Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy toward Iran, working closely with Pompeo.
He was leading the charge on efforts to prevent the lifting of the arms embargo on Iran which will expire in October under UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorses Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The Trump administration has threatened that it may seek to trigger a snapback of all sanctions on Iran if its attempts to extend the arms embargo fail.
Tehran, however, has firmly rejected Washington’s plans as the US is no longer a party to the nuclear deal ever since it withdrew from the multilateral agreement in 2018.
Meanwhile, Hook’s departure is likely to bury any chance of a diplomatic initiative with Iran before the end of Trump’s term.
“Sometimes it’s the journey and sometimes it’s the destination,’’ Hook said in the interview on Wednesday. “In the case of our Iran strategy, it’s both. We would like a new deal with the regime. But in the meantime, our pressure has collapsed their finances.”