Middle East Online

  In Middle East Online

US envoy for Iran steps down

US envoy for Iran Brian Hook announced his departure on Thursday, a day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US would call for a UN Security Council vote next week on a resolution to indefinitely extend the arms embargo on Iran, which is due to expire in October.

That resolution is expected to fail amid widespread international opposition, setting the stage for a showdown between the US and the other Security Council members over the reimposition of all international sanctions on Iran.

Hook, who gave no reason for his stepping down, is to be replaced by Elliott Abrams, a noted hawk on numerous policy issues who is the US special envoy for Venezuela, a close Iran ally.

Since withdrawing the US from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal two years ago, Trump has steadily ratcheted up pressure on Iran by imposing penalties on countries importing Iranian oil, declaring its Revolutionary Guard a “foreign terrorist organization” and killing a top commander of the paramilitary organization this year in a missile strike in Iraq.

Sanctions on Iranian crude exports, the main source of foreign revenue, have sent Iran’s economy into free fall.

Iran’s foreign ministry on Friday expressed indifference to the change in the Trump administration’s top envoy for Iran, alleging that the new US official in the post would be no different from his predecessor.

On Friday, Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, vice-president in charge of the budget and planning, said that Iran has in recent months met only 6% of its goal for oil revenue. He did not give further details.

Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted the foreign ministry’s spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, as saying Friday that “there is no difference between Brian Hook and Elliott Abrams.”

“Where the US policy toward Iran is concerned, American officials have bitten off more than they can chew,” Mousavi said.

Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, also welcomed Hook’s departure. Iranian officials routinely claim President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran has failed. Source