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New Iran Action Group Formed with Aim of Getting Iran to 'Finally Act Like a Normal Nation'

New Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook speaks at the State Department

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today announced the creation of the Iran Action Group to address "all manifestations of the Iranian threat," according to new Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, and to "be focused on implementing that strategy."

Hook, who served in a variety of roles during the George W. Bush administration including three months as assistant secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, has been director of policy planning and senior policy advisor to Pompeo since February 2017.

"We have taken a comprehensive approach to Iran because the scope of Iranian maligned activity is so wide ranging. From its aspirations of nuclear weapons, its support for terrorism, its cyber activity, its proliferation of ballistic missiles and much more, the Iran regime has been a force for instability and violence," Hook said today at the State Department, adding that another priority will be on an effort to "continue to build the broadest level of international support for our strategy."

Trump withdrew the U.S. from the P5+1 nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in May. Pompeo said today, "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. The Iran Action Group will drive daily progress on these objectives, and I hope do much more," Pompeo said. "We're committed to a whole of government effort to change the Iranian regime's behavior, and the Iran Action Group will ensure that the Department of State remains closely synchronized with our interagency partners."

Hook said he met with German, French and British officials in London this week for "productive discussions on Iran," and "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."

The Iran Action Group, he said, "will launch with a core staff of several permanent personnel and additional experts will be detailed from the department." Hook didn't provide any names, but said "in time we'll be happy to talk about it."

Hook said that if "the Iranian regime demonstrates a commitment to make fundamental changes in its behavior, then the president is prepared to engage in dialogue in order to find solutions."

Those areas of improvement in order to relax sanctions include "nukes, terrorism and the detention of American citizens arbitrarily detained," he added.

The administration is working toward a goal to "reduce every country's import of Iranian oil to zero by Nov. 4"; China says it doesn't plan to cut its oil imports and may increase them.

"Now we are prepared to work with countries that are reducing their imports on a case-by-case basis," Hook said. "As you know, those sanctions will come into effect on Nov. 5. Those will include sanctions on Iran's energy sector, transactions by foreign financial institutions with the Central Bank of Iran, Iran's shipping and ship building sectors among others. And the United States certainly hopes for full compliance by all nations in terms of not risking the threat of U.S. secondary sanctions if they continue with those transactions."

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused the U.S. of "trying to create a psychological atmosphere" against Iran.

"Basically the entire goal is to psychologically affect our nation and to affect the psychological vibe of our trade partners across the globe," Zarif said on TV Wednesday night, adding that "the world is not ready to follow the U.S." away from the JCPOA.