(August 16, 2018 / JNS) U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Thursday the founding of the Iran Action Group, which will “be responsible for directing, reviewing and coordinating all aspects of the State Department’s Iran-related activity.”
“For nearly 40 years, the regime in Tehran has been responsible for a torrent of violent and destabilizing behavior against the United States, our allies, our partners, and indeed, the Iranian people themselves,” said Pompeo.
“Our hope is that one day soon we can reach a new agreement with Iran. 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.”
He added that “the Iran Action Group will drive daily progress on these objectives and I hope do much more.”
Benham Ben Taleblu, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), told JNS that he views the creation of the group as a positive sign that the United States is prioritizing the Iran issue.
“The need for an Iran action group—or any entity specializing in streamlining, coordinating and implementing Iran policy—is due to the challenge of balancing the myriad threats posed by the Islamic Republic, as well as the attention the president and other administration officials have rightly given to that threat,” explained Ben Taleblu.
He added that “there have been White House czars before, study groups, as well as unconfirmed reports about Secretary Pompeo having a similar group to deal with the North Korea problem set in his previous government position [as CIA director]. The most important takeaway here is that it’s a good thing when the U.S. prioritizes assets and resources towards a problem set.”
“Hopefully, the Iran Action Group will strive to empower and better stand with the Iranian people as they contest the clerical regime in Tehran,” said Ben Taleblu.
Brian Hook, who had served as director of policy planning under Pompeo and his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, will lead the initiative as the Special Representative for Iran, reporting directly to the secretary of state, Pompeo said.
“Since the president’s decision to withdraw from the Iran deal in May, Brian has played an important role in shaping our strategy of maximum diplomatic and economic pressure,” said Pompeo. “We are going to continue to rely on him and his team to lead our efforts to counter the Iranian regime’s malign activity, to support Iranian voices and to galvanize international support for our efforts.”
Hook accused Iran on Wednesday of being “a force for instability and violence,” and said he would be open to talks, but added that American efforts to sanction Tehran economically and diplomatically would continue until its leadership changed course.
The move by Pompeo also comes as America reimposed sanctions on Aug. 6 after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in May.
“The creation of the Iran Action Group indicates that the Trump administration seeks to mobilize all of Washington’s institutional resources to advance its maximum pressure campaign against the regime in Iran,” Tzvi Kahn, senior Iran Analyst at FDD, told JNS. “At the same time, it also sends a resolute message to Tehran that the United States will remain unrelenting in its efforts to change the mullahs’ behavior.”
Kahn added, “In other words: Don’t underestimate us.”