Hook said the group’s work will center on the 12 demands made of Iran by Pompeo in a speech in May, adding that the focus will mostly be “around nukes, terrorism, and the detention of American citizens arbitrarily detained.” In that speech, Pompeo warned “of unprecedented financial pressure in the form of the strongest sanctions in history” if Tehran did not comply with the U.S. demands.
Pompeo declares economic war on Iran
The announcement Thursday is part of the Trump administration’s policy of sustained pressure on Iran that followed the U.S. withdrawal in May from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the official name for the nuclear agreement that Iran signed with the world’s major powers in exchange for political and economic benefits. The first set of U.S. sanctions prompted by the withdrawal went into effect last week. More restrictive sanctions that target Iran’s oil exports will take effect November 4. The goal, the Trump administration says, is to squeeze Iran’s economy and, consequently, its regime in order to change its policies.
“The goal is to weaken Iran in the hopes that it will pull back in the region, suddenly become more amenable to the policies of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel,” Slavin said. That is unlikely to happen, however, as Iran views the region as part of its sphere of influence, just as the Saudis and Emiratis do.
Iran’s economy is struggling even without U.S. sanctions
The Trump administration and its supporters said the JCPOA did not adequately deal with Iran’s ballistic-missile program, its support for militant groups, and its involvement in regional politics. Supporters of the agreement said the accord was meant to deal with only the single-most problematic aspect of Iran’s behavior—its nuclear program—and argued that the agreement could serve as a starting point for talks on other issues. (Critics of the agreement say the JCPOA merely postpones Iran’s inevitable acquisition of nuclear weapons; the accord’s supporters dismiss that claim.) Donald Trump himself had initially said that he was open to talks with Iran with no preconditions, but officials in his administration have since walked that back. The United States now says it is open to talks with Iran—if the Islamic Republic changes its policies on a range of issues, including its political and military involvement in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Iraq; its threats against Israel; its ballistic-missile program; and its dismal human-rights record. The Iranians have meanwhile signaled they aren’t interested.
“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,” Hook said Thursday. “But the sanctions relief, the reestablishment of full diplomatic and commercial relations with the United States, and economic cooperation with the United States can only begin after we see that the Iranian regime is serious about changing its behavior.”