UPDATED 7:06 AM PT — Friday, August 7, 2020
U.S. Envoy to Iran Brian Hook has stepped down from his position and will be replaced by the current envoy to Venezuela Elliot Abrams. The specific reason for Hook’s departure is unknown.
According to a tweet by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, however, he will be joining the private sector. Hook’s resignation comes as the U.S. looks to extend an international arms embargo in a vote next week with the UN Security Council.
“This chamber has a choice: stand for international peace and security as the United Nations founder intended or let the arms embargo on the Islamic Republic of Iran expire,” stated Pompeo. “…Betraying the UN’s mission and it’s finest ideals.”
I thank Special Representative Brian Hook for his 3+ years of service to the State Department and @realDonaldTrump as he moves on to the private sector. He has been a valued member of my leadership team.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) August 6, 2020
China and Russia are currently promising to veto the resolution, which would kill the extension altogether. In this case, the U.S. is threatening to trigger a “snapback” of sanctions, which were previously lifted on Iran in the 2015 nuclear agreement.
The U.S. joined this accordance under the Obama administration and later pulled out of with the inauguration of President Trump. Hook has said the practice of imposing economic sanctions has had a lot of success.
“We are dedicated to this policy of maximum economic pressure because it is working,” he stated. “It is denying the regime historic levels of revenue, their proxies around the region are hurting financially.”
Hook has served as the State Department’s point person on Iran policy for the past two years with the job now going to Abrams who is well known for his involvement with the Iran-Contra affair in the 1980’s. This deal later had him convicted on misdemeanor counts of willfully withholding information from Congress
The Iran-Contra affair was a series of arms sales by the U.S. to Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages held by Iranian-backed extremist group Hezbollah. Subsequently, money made in the deal was used by the CIA to fund the contra revolution in Nicaragua, which was illegal according to the Boland Amendment previously passed by House Democrats at the time.
Abrams involvement in this scandal raises much concern from anti-interventionists on both sides of the aisle as his role in backing the Nicaraguan military coup is not something they believe to be in the interest of the U.S. or the citizens of Venezuela.
Currently, Venezuela is ruled by socialist dictator Nicholas Maduro whose public approval rating in May of this year was around 13-percent. However, the support of the military allows him to maintain a strong authority over his people.
Abrams’ task in recent years has been the ousting of Maduro through the use of heavy U.S. sanctions. However, his regime has held the support of China, Russia and Iran.
Critics are citing Abrams’ role in the Iran-Contra affair as a point of concern seeing as how he will be in charge of both Iran and socialist Venezuela. However, the likelihood of Abrams using an arms deal with Iran to fund a militant coup in Venezuela would become very unlikely should the UN vote to extend the arms embargo to Iran.
Even in the event the UN doesn’t extend the embargo, the “snapback” of sanctions would have Iran and it’s proxies see disastrous economic impacts, which has proven in recent years to be an effective alternative to direct interventionism and is something Abrams has continued to do in Venezuela.