US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo on August 16, 2018 announced the formation of the Iran Action Group (IAG) to coordinate and run the country's policy towards Iran. The development follows President Donald Trump's announcement of the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the multinational Iran nuclear deal.
Pompeo has named Brian Hook, the State Department's director of policy planning, as the group’s head.
• The basic aim behind the formation of IAG is to change the Iranian regime's behavior. The group will ensure that the US Department of State remains closely synchronised with the US interagency partners.
• The IAG will also lead the way in growing efforts with nations that share the same understanding of the Iranian threat as the United States.
• Following the announcement of the creation of the group, IAG’s new head Brian Hook stated that Iran's malign activities were wide-ranging and US’s new strategy was addressing all manifestations of the Iranian threat. In fact, the new Iran Action Group will be focused on implementing that strategy.
• Brian Hook has been formally named as the ‘Special Representative for Iran’.
Brian Hook, Director of Policy Planning of US State Department
Reacting to the recent development of appointing Hook to head the new policy initiative, senior analysts feel that it will put the US on the path to war with Iran.
On the other hand, there are also perceptions that Hook will play an instrumental role in facilitating US-Iran diplomacy if President Trump follows through on his call for negotiations.
Analysts feel that if this is the first step before entering into any direct talks, it would be constructive if they facilitate in pursuing a realistic approach, to consider Iran's legitimate concerns.
The negotiations if done right could possibly reverse US’s decision to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal.
• In late July, Trump, who has repeatedly criticised Iran's leaders, said he is willing to meet with them with no preconditions.
• Earlier on August 16, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani questioned Trump's decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal. He said, "America took some steps that removed the conditions for talks. They destroyed the bridge themselves, and now they are standing on the other side asking 'how can I cross?' Why destroy the bridge when you wanted to walk across?"
• On August 13, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in the country's most important political decisions, ruled out negotiations with the Trump administration. He said that as demonstrated in the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran will only enter into negotiations in the position of strength so that US’s pressures and uproars don’t affect them.
• Hook had previously led the ultimately unsuccessful attempt of the Trump administration to negotiate changes to the nuclear deal with European allies before the US president decided to pull out of the landmark accord in May 2018.
• Post-withdrawal, the US administration re-imposed sanctions on Iran that were eased under the landmark deal and increased pressure on the nation to try to get it to stop ‘malign activities’ in the region.
• In addition to its nuclear and missile programmes, the US has demanded that Iran scale back its military presence in the neighbouring middle-eastern countries.