The United States is determined to push for what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called “major changes” in the behavior of the Iranian regime—including their nuclear and missile activities and their support for terrorism—and so he recently announced the formation of the Iran Action Group at the State Department to focus on this effort. “Our hope is that one day soon we can reach a new agreement with Iran,” said Pompeo in a Department press release on August 16.
“But we must see major changes in the regime’s behavior both inside and outside of its borders. The Iranian people and the world are demanding that Iran finally act like a normal nation. The Iran Action Group will drive daily progress on these objectives and I hope do much more.”
Pompeo said that the Group would be “key” to working with other nations on countering the Iran threat, and they join what is already a robust effort. Just this week National Security Advisor John Bolton visited Israel with Iran on his mind. And Brian Hook, the new head of the Iran Action Group, was in London last week for “productive discussions” with European allies on Iran. “We will continue to build on those areas where we are in agreement with our allies and partners around the world and we will work to find consensus on those areas where we are not,” said Hook, in a separate press release last week. As Bolton saw firsthand, Israel already agrees.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal “nothing less than a hinge of history.”
Said Netanyahu in comments with Bolton released by his office on Monday, “Israel applauds the Trump administration’s determination to re-impose tough sanctions on Iran and those doing business with Iran. I know that that view is shared by all our Arab neighbors, or practically everyone in this region. And I frankly believe that all countries who care about peace and security in the Middle East should follow America’s lead and ratchet up the pressure on Iran.”
Gaining international support is a key part of the Iran Action Group’s mandate. Hook reiterated the American goal to convince every nation to cut Iranian oil imports to “zero” by November 4 and noted that nations that don’t comply with US sanctions on Iranian products and entities would risk US sanctions on themselves.
Hook pointed to teams from the US State and Treasury departments who had visited well over a dozen countries and expressed optimism on the shared view by others of the Iranian threat.
“We have very good discussions with allies around the world, because when you look at the range of Iranian threats, especially around missiles and cyber, maritime aggression, terrorism, these are concerns of other nations,” said Hook. “The United States is not alone in that regard. And I find that when we sit down and talk with other nations there are shared interests that we’re able to pursue and we’ll continue doing it.”
But it’s not just a global, big-picture view. Hook and Pompeo both also noted US support for the people inside Iran as well. So did Netanyahu, in his comments with Bolton.
“In standing up to the regime, we stand with the people of Iran,” said Netanyahu to Bolton. “The [US] President has made it clear, Secretary Pompeo has made it clear, you’ve made it clear, and I’ve made it clear too—in numerous appeals, direct appeals to the people of Iran. And it’s important that the people of Iran understand that our fight is not with them. Our fight is with the regime that brutally represses them.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, August 22, 2018)