The U.S. State Department now has a Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, as part of a policy shift throughout the Trump administration. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo established the Iran Action Group and appointed Hook to lead it. At a recent event for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Hook spoke about the activities of the regime and the recent decision by France to suspend all non-essential travel by diplomats and representatives to Iran.
The threat from the Iranian regime, according to the U.S., is so great that it has become one of the top foreign policy issues for the Trump administration.
The repressive nature of the regime
One of the main points of Hook’s remarks was the repressive measures taken by the regime to maintain power and control. A critical area is the repression of women’s rights, particularly as it relates to religion. The regime is using extreme Islamic teachings to make all Iranians conform to the tenants of the Islamic Revolution.
“The repression of religious freedom is a feature of this regime as well, and it is something that the Trump administration is calling out repeatedly,” said Hook. “We are aware of the suffering of religious minorities in Iran and we will speak up for them. Our Religious Freedom Ministerial at the State Department, last month, reinforced our commitment to speaking up for all persecuted peoples in Iran and defending their right to worship.”
Economics and mismanagement angering Iranian people
Throughout his remarks, Hook repeatedly mentioned that the economic and environmental decisions made by the mullahs were angering the Iranian people. Last year, leaked paystubs showed how much money key government officials were making, while a budget confirmed cuts to the Iranian subsidy program for the poorest Iranians. Wages have also been withheld, leaving many professionals struggling to make ends meet while they wait for their paychecks.
“Economically, the regime’s economic mismanagement has put the country in tailspin. The rial’s value has collapsed in the past year. A third of Iranian youth are unemployed. A third of Iranians now live in poverty. Unpaid wages are leading to rapid strikes,” said Hook.
Fuel and water shortages are common, and the wealth generated by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was not used to improve the lives of the average Iranians. Instead, the money fueled efforts by the regime to increase their influence throughout the region.
Hopes for moderate regime are gone
The reality is that the JCPOA was seen as a means to help the regime follow international norms and bring them into the international community. Instead, they have plundered the Iranian people and focused on fueling rebel and terrorist groups throughout the region.
“We are heartened by the news this morning that our great ally France is indefinitely postponing all nonessential diplomatic travel to Iran because of Iran’s role in this plot. That’s the kind of action that President Trump and Secretary Pompeo welcome,” said Hook.
He was referring to the thwarted attempt to bomb a gathering of Iranian resistance members and their supporters in Paris at the end of June. An Iranian couple was arrested in Belgium with explosives, while an Iranian diplomat from Vienna was arrested in Germany for his part in the plot.
There are also the funds for different groups that mean some fighters supported by Iranian subsidies make more than Iranian workers at home.
“Iran providing Lebanese Hezbollah about $700 million per year. Iran has spent at least $16 billion on supporting its proxies in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Iran has historically provided over $100 million per year to Palestinian groups, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Iran has extended at least $4.6 billion in lines of credit to Syria,” said Hook.
He noted that the aggressive stance of the Trump administration includes multiple sanctions meant to prompt change by the regime. There are 12 demands that were laid out by Pompeo in May and Hook noted that the U.S. would welcome an agreement with Iran that addressed those 12 areas.
He also noted that the increasing number of protests demonstrates that the Iranian people are looking for change and that the U.S. supports their efforts.