Senior US envoy to Iran Brian Hook is stepping down – and Elliott Abrams, the US special representative for Venezuela, will add Iran to his role “after a period of transition” with Hook, the secretary of the United States said Thursday. US State Mike Pompeo.
Hook’s surprise departure comes at a critical time when Washington has been lobbying the United Nations intensively to extend an arms embargo to Iran and as the UN Security Council prepares to hold a vote on an American resolution next week.
“We will continue to champion this cause,” Hook told reporters Thursday morning, hours before the announcement of his departure. “We hope the council can find a way. “
It wasn’t immediately clear when Hook’s tenure would officially end and whether he would see through the vote or not.
Pompeo didn’t give a reason for Hook’s decision to leave, but wrote in a tweet that Hook was moving on to the private sector. He described him as a “trusted advisor and good friend” who achieved “historic results” in the fight against Tehran and secured the release of US citizens held by Iran.
Thank you Special Representative Brian Hook for his 3+ years of State Department service and @realDonaldTrump as he moves into the private sector. He has been a valuable member of my management team.
– Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) August 6, 2020
Hook, 52, was appointed Iranian chief executive officer at the State Department in late 2018 and was instrumental in escalating Washington’s lobbying campaign on Tehran following President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers.
Opponents criticized Hook and the administration for too harsh and indiscriminate sanctions, which they said hurt ordinary Iranians and did not change the behavior of the Iranian government.
The United States’ Security Council bid to extend the arms embargo is a key test that some diplomats say will likely fail because it lacks the necessary backing and veto powers Russia and China have already reported their opposition.
If the United States fails in its bid, it has threatened to trigger a return of all UN sanctions in a process known as snapback. Some diplomats have suggested that Washington will likely initiate the recovery process, which could take up to 30 days, by the end of August.
“Hook’s departure underscores the escalating risks surrounding US-Iranian relations in the months to come,” Eurasia Group analyst Henry Rome said in a note to clients.
“Hook traveled to Europe and the Middle East last month to gain support for the extension of the arms embargo, an effort that appears to have failed,” Rome said. “He may not want to be involved in the messy snapback process. “
Abrams, 72, a Republican foreign policy veteran, was appointed United States’ special representative for Venezuela in January 2019 and led a hard-line approach to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
U.S. officials have said privately that Trump is frustrated with the failed impeachment of Maduro, who retains the support of the Venezuelan military, as well as Russia, China, Cuba and Iran.