Politico

Iran envoy Hook resigns, replaced by Abrams


U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook is resigning from his role at the State Department, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Thursday, and will be replaced by Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams.

Hook’s resignation marks the second departure of a high-ranking State Department official in just two days. Acting inspector general Stephen Akard also stepped down Wednesday less than three months after President Donald Trump fired the department’s previous internal watchdog.

In a statement addressing Hook’s resignation — which was first reported by The New York Times — Pompeo described the diplomat as “my point person on Iran for over two years” and credited him with having “achieved historic results countering the Iranian regime.”

“He has been a trusted advisor to me and a good friend. I thank him for his service,” Pompeo said, adding that Abrams will assume Hook’s responsibilities after a transition period.

Hook, also a senior policy adviser to Pompeo, was director of the State Department’s Policy Planning staff from 2017-2018 before being tapped to oversee Iran policy.

In that role, he led the administration’s “maximum pressure” strategy toward Iran, a policy designed to punish the clerical regime and induce it to make key concessions related to its nuclear program and other matters.

But the Trump administration has struggled to produce any meaningful results on the nuclear front, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently announcing the program’s expansion.

“He is going to benefit from negotiations,” Khamenei said in a speech marking the Eid al-Adha holiday, referring to Trump. “This old man who is in charge in America apparently used negotiations with North Korea as propaganda.”

Hook was widely viewed as a top candidate to replace former national security adviser John Bolton in September 2019 — a job that ultimately went to Robert O’Brien, the State Department’s special presidential envoy for hostage affairs.

Abrams, who will now take over both the Iran and Venezuela portfolios, became entangled in the Iran-Contra affair during his tenure in former President Ronald Reagan’s administration.

Abrams’ office at the State Department is next door to Hook’s, he noted in a recent think-tank appearance, “so most of what I hear about Iran policy is what I hear through the wall.”

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