Brian H. Hook, US Special Representative for Iran and Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State, affirmed that the US and Kuwait share the common goal of protecting maritime security in one of the world’s most critical shipping lanes and are united in addressing the current tensions through diplomatic means.
Speaking to the press at a media roundtable, he stressed that the increase in economic sanctions on Iran was a diplomatic solution and stated that the enhancements made in US force posture in the region was purely a defensive stance. He provided no details about the new sanctions: “We never preview our sanctions.” Instead, he highlighted the success of previous sanctions on its main exports of oil, petrochemical products and industrial metals. “This is the price that the regime is paying for acting like an outlaw,”
Hook said. He shared that the loss of revenue had been successful in rendering Iran’s proxies around the world weaker than before the sanctions came about.
In speaking to the press at a media roundtable held at the Radisson Blu Hotel on Sunday during his visit Kuwait, the third stop in the region after KSA and the UAE, Hook thanked HH the Amir for hosting the visit and for his decades of leadership and strong diplomacy. “He is the founding member of the GCC and he has made it a priority to strengthen cooperation and stability in the region. This is why he is one of the region’s most well-regarded statesmen.”
He also thanked Kuwait for hosting and stationing American troops and pointed out that they not only enhance Kuwait’s security but also the security of the region. He affirmed that the US is committed to the alliance of friendship and joint priorities it shares with Kuwait, that are advanced on the ground with the US Embassy in Kuwait under the leadership of US Ambassador Lawrence Silverman.
During his visit to Kuwait, he held meetings with the Kuwaiti Minister of Defence, the Chief of Staff of the Kuwait Military, the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister and his deputies. “I was able to share intelligence, assessments and information about recent attacks in the region and we discussed how we can de-escalate tensions. The tensions in the region have been driven by Iran and we discussed how we can deepen our cooperation especially around the area of maritime security.”
Hook stressed that Iran posed an immediate threat to the freedom of navigation and highlighted the need for a global effort to counter it. “We have kept our foreign policy squarely in diplomatic channels and our diplomacy does not entitle Iran to respond with military force and violence.”
He faulted Iran of not responding to pressure by following recognized international norms. “This is a regime that for forty years has used violence and terror as a tool of state craft and the Iranian regime needs to meet diplomacy with diplomacy and not with violence or threats of nuclear blackmail.” He shared that all nations of the world share an interest in the free flow of commerce. “If you look at the shipping that goes through the Strait of Hormuz, so much of that makes it way to Asia, Europe and the West. In the attacks in Fujairah, there were 17 countries who had equities who were affected adversely by those attacks and we have done a lot of good work in the UN Security Council and there will be more work coming shortly in the UN Security Council.”
He shared that the US had begun to share information on various models that exist to enhance and promote maritime security with various countries and will continue those discussions in the upcoming G-20 summit. He reiterated, “Maritime attacks are a clear and present threat that we need many countries to respond to.”
He shared that the US continued to work bilaterally and multilaterally to build support for an international response. He noted that the purpose of the UN Security Council, by its charter, is to address threats to peace and security, and pointed to Iran’s attacks on the freedom of navigation as a clear example of such a threat that also endangered innocent civilians. He shared that the UN Security Council has played and will continue to play a role going forward but did not provide any details of specific measures being considered.
He warned, “UN Resolution 2231 has a number of provisions that are still current, there is an arms embargo on Iran. Unfortunately, because of the Iranian nuclear deal, that arms embargo put in place in 2006 will expire in 17 months, in Oct 2020. It is very important that we recognize that many provisions, nuclear and military restrictions on Iran are going to start expiring.” He relayed that one of the biggest flaws of the Nuclear Deal was its temporary nature that failed to address the challenge of Iran’s nuclear programme in any permanent way.
“We are seeking a much stronger agreement that will address Iran’s nuclear programme, it’s missile program and its regional aggression.” He reiterated the US commitment to its new foreign policy towards Iran as the right approach and deemed it a success. “We have applied sanctions to Iran that do not have any historic precedent. We are holding Iran accountable for its revolutionary and expansionist foreign policy. Iran does not like to be countered. They have been able to run their foreign policy for many years without much consequence. We have taken a new approach committed to deterring Iran. Our goal is to establish and restore deterrence and that should be the goal of all nations – to deter attacks from the Iranian regime in this region and around the world.”
“Our Iran strategy has many objectives but two principle objectives are to deny regime the revenue that it needs to run an expansionist and violent foreign policy. The Iranian regime provides lethal assistance and funding to its terror proxies around the region and they aspire to create a Shia corridor of power to dominate the Middle East. So much of the instability that we see in the Middle East is driven by Iran and this is why Secretary Pompeo has addressed Iran as the most significant threat to peace and security in the Middle East.” He shared that Kuwait has over many years, as a leader in the GCC, played a very helpful role, and he encouraged all nations to use their diplomatic efforts to urge Iran to deescalate and to meet diplomacy with diplomacy. He relayed the GCC’s strong support for President Trump’s foreign policy and his handling of this crisis. “I have seen that reflected in most of the news reporting that they appreciate the way that he has kept this foreign policy of diplomatic isolation and economic pressure squarely in diplomatic channels and he has made clear that we are not interested in military conflict against Iran. We have enhanced our force posture in the region was squarely for defensive reasons.”
Refuting assertions that the US has pushed Iran into a corner, he stated that for a year now the US has made it clear that it was are open to negotiations. “We seek a diplomatic solution to the threat to peace and security that Iran presents. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has said in the past that he would meet without preconditions. Iran has responded to these repeated overtures by rejecting offers of diplomacy.” “Iran faces a decision – they can either start behaving like a normal country or watch their economy crumble. We want Iran to behave more like a normal nation and less like a revolutionary cause. If we can imagine a more peaceful Iran it is very easy to imagine a much more peaceful Middle East,” he added. He shared that there is currently no backchannel mediation taking place while many countries have offered to encourage Iran towards de-escalation.