EghtesadOnline: The US envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, is leaving his post and US special representative for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, will add Iran to his role “following a transition period” with Hook, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday.
Hook’s surprise departure comes at a critical time when Washington has been intensely lobbying at the United Nations to extend an arms embargo on Iran and as the UN Security Council prepares to hold a vote on the US resolution next week, Reuters reported.
“We’re going to continue to make the case for this,” Hook told reporters on Thursday, hours before his departure was announced. “We hope that the council can find a way.”
A senior administration official said the transition would take a couple of weeks and Abrams was expected to retain both the Iran and Venezuela roles for the remainder of US President Donald Trump’s term.
Pompeo did not give a reason for the change but wrote in a tweet that Hook was moving on to the private sector. He described him as a “trusted adviser and a good friend” who had achieved “historic results” in countering Tehran and securing the release of US citizens detained by Iran.
Hook, 52, was appointed to the top Iran role at the US State Department in late 2018 and has played a key role in Washington’s intensifying pressure campaign on Tehran after Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers.
Opponents criticized Hook and the US administration for overly harsh and indiscriminate sanctions, which they said were hurting ordinary Iranians and failing to change the behavior of the Iranian government.
No Game Changer
Hook’s departure “does not concern us and is not something we consider as a game changer”, Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman of Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York, told Reuters.
“The so-called ‘maximum pressure’ campaign waged by the US government has failed,” he said. “Iran is not on its knees, and will not do so regardless of who is in charge of implementing this bankrupt policy.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi also said in a tweet, “There’s no difference between [former US national security advisor] John Bolton, Brian Hook or Elliott Abrams.”
“When US policy concerns Iran, American officials have been biting off more than they can chew. This applies to Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump and their successors,” Mousavi said.
The US bid at the UN Security Council to extend the arms embargo is a key test that some diplomats say will likely fail as it lacks the necessary support, and veto powers Russia and China have already signaled their opposition.
If the United States is unsuccessful in its bid, it has threatened to trigger a return of all UN sanctions under a process known as snapback. Some diplomats have suggested Washington will likely start the snapback process, which could take up to 30 days, by the end of August.
Abrams, 72, a Republican foreign policy veteran, was named US special representative for Venezuela in January 2019 and has led a hardline approach aimed at ousting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
US officials have said privately that Trump has been frustrated by the failure to remove Maduro, who retains the support of the Venezuelan military, as well as Russia, China, Cuba and Iran.
Abrams has recently been dealing with US concerns about a growing alliance between Iran and Venezuela, both OPEC members under heavy US sanctions.
Iran in recent months has sent fuel tankers to gasoline-short Venezuela, drawing the US ire.