United States announces 'Action Group' to coordinate anti-Iran efforts

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It is led by Brian Hook, a policy official who tried to push through changes to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal before President Trump ditched it. The appointment comes as tensions are escalating between the US and Iran after the Trump administration reimposed economic sanctions against Iran last week.

Brian Hook, the US State Department's special representative for Iran, speaks about the creation of the Iran Action Group at the State Department, in Washington, Thursday, August 16, 2018.

Officials said the group will be headed by Brian Hook, who is now the State Department's director of policy planning.

"The Iran Action Group will be responsible for directing, reviewing and coordinating all aspects of the State Department's Iran-related activity, and will report directly to me", Pompeo said.

"But we must see major changes in the [Iranian] regime's behavior, both inside and outside of its borders", Pompeo said.

For its part, Tehran has said that the USA side is unreliable and it will not talk with Washington. "The Iranian people and the world are demanding that Iran finally act like a normal nation".

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the USA is once again brandishing the trade sanctions scepter at China, threatening to impose further economic restrictions on China if Shanghai continues to import Iranian oil.

In May, Pompeo outlined what many analysts saw as a policy of regime change in everything but name - saying the USA will aim to "crush" Iran with economic and military pressure unless it changes its behavior in the Middle East. The 2015 Obama-era accord, signed by the US, Iran, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russian Federation, restricted Iran's nuclear program in return for the lifting of global sanctions.

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Iran will turn to China, Russia, and Turkey to reduce the impact of sanctions, but all three countries are embroiled in complex negotiations with the United States in which Iran is one bargaining chip.

CBS News' Kylie Atwood reports that the State Department now faces a November 4th deadline when sanctions will be reimposed on those who are importing Iranian oil. "The supreme leader has said negotiations will have to wait in order to soften up America".

The secretary of state and former Central Intelligence Agency director also accused several members of Iran's leadership, including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, of participating in widespread corruption.

Hook, who was a close adviser to former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, worked with U.S. national security advisor John Bolton on Iran sanctions while Bolton was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under Republican President George W. Bush.

He added that "there have been White House czars before, study groups, as well as unconfirmed reports about Secretary Pompeo having a similar group to deal with the North Korea problem set in his previous government position [as Central Intelligence Agency director]".

In his new job, Hook is to oversee implementation of the administration's entire Iran policy, the officials said.

They said Hook is expected to be replaced in that job by Kiron Skinner, a foreign policy academic who served very briefly on the State Department transition team after President Donald Trump took office.

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