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US creates Iran Action Group to ‘change regime’s behavior’

US creates Iran Action Group to ‘change regime’s behavior’
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – a fierce critic of the Tehran leadership – has announced the creation of a so-called Iran Action Group. It comes amid Washington’s campaign of economic pressure against Iran and its allies.

Speaking at the Thursday State Department briefing, Pompeo launched another verbal assault on the Islamic Republic. He claimed that the people of Iran and the world demand that the Iranian government “finally acts like a normal nation.” Director of Policy Planning Brian Hook will lead the Iran Action Group to counter the Iranian government’s “malign activity and support Iranian voices.”

Hook, who also serves as a senior policy advisor to Pompeo, adopted the same harsh rhetoric as his boss. Delivering a scathing speech against Tehran, he stressed that the US wants to “promote a brighter future for the Iranian people,” while insisting the “Iran regime has been a force for instability and violence.” 

The official went on to speak from America’s 12-point ultimatum, which Pompeo unleashed back in May this year after the US withdrew from the landmark nuclear accord. Hook believes that US President Donald Trump is “prepared to talk to the regime,” if Tehran “changes its behavior” in those 12 areas. Pompeo added that the US wants to see “major” changes in Iran’s behavior “both inside and outside of its borders.”

When it comes to other countries continuing to do business with Iran, Hook said the US is “prepared to impose secondary sanctions on other governments.” The US “certainly hopes for full compliance by all nations,” Hook stressed, while noting that Washington’s goal is to “reduce every country’s imports of Iranian oil to zero by November 4.”

When AP's Matt Lee noted that the announcement of the Iran Action Group was taking place on the anniversary of the 1953 US-backed coup, and asked if this suggested a desire for “regime change,” Hook responded that the timing is “pure coincidence” and that the IAG is aimed at “changing the Iranian regime’s behavior.”

As a staunch ideological opponent of Tehran, Washington has been ramping up the economic pressure, urging its allies who pledged to stay committed to the Iran deal, to sever business ties with the Iranian government. The US earlier warned that countries who refuse to cut off oil imports from Iran might face secondary US sanctions.

European nations and Russia have already spoken out against the US demands to stop doing business with Iran. Ministers from Britain, France, Germany, and the EU wrote a letter to top Trump officials in June, in which they asked for Washington to agree not to punish European industries over their dealings with Tehran. The letter, posted online by The New York Times, said that “as allies, we expect that the United States will refrain from taking action to harm Europe’s security interests.”

While the US repeatedly claimed that it’s not aiming for regime change in the Islamic Republic, former US diplomat Jim Jatras believes that, from what Pompeo describes, Washington wants “an entire different mode of governance in Iran.”

“I think he is basically saying that we want to support a popular movement to bring down the Ayatollah’s regime,” Jatras told RT back in July. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in July that the other signatories of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal agree that US sanctions on countries doing business with Iran “is an absolutely illegal and unacceptable policy, but, of course, this can hardly be changed and there will be enough struggle in trade, economic and political spheres.” The minister also urged the remaining signatories to the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), to develop ways to keep commercial and economic ties with Iran that “would not depend on US whims.”

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