Brian Hook to Asharq Al-Awsat: Iran Seeks to Repeat Lebanon's Model in the Region
A few weeks before the second package of US sanctions on Iran comes into force early next month, the Iranian crisis appears to be entering a new phase of complexity since US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal in May.
The White House says the next sanctions will only be part of a package of unprecedented measures that will be taken to force the Iranian regime to put an end to its destructive regional policy and return to the negotiating table. In contrast, the administration says that an “unprecedented package of incentives awaits Tehran if it stops its aggressive behavior.”
The most important question is how far the Iranian regime will continue with its policies and to what extent US sanctions could affect Tehran to force it to sit on the negotiating table and respond to the demands of the Iranian people and the international community.
In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, the United States special envoy on Iran, Brian Hook, revealed that the nuclear agreement has helped Tehran expand the financing of terrorism and accused the regime of seeking to repeat Lebanon’s model in the region, pointing out that the US sanctions were not aimed at the economy but were targeted against the regime.
Asked about his recent comments that the US did not want to forge a personal agreement with Iran, but rather a treaty, Hook stressed that the latter was more permanent and sustainable as it is negotiated by the president and ratified by the Senate.
“The Iran nuclear was not submitted as a treaty to the Senate, because it did not enjoy the support of the Congress,” noting that former President Barack Obama has decided to do a personal agreement with Iran that existed as long as he was in office. He stressed that when Obama left office, the agreement lost its legal status.
“In our view, any agreement on the nuclear program with Iran should be submitted as a treaty,” he explained, adding that any new treaty would cover a range of subjects, not only Tehran’s nuclear activities.
“When Iran starts behaving like a normal country, it can enjoy the privileges of a normal country,” Hook noted.
He also emphasized that the mistake in the Iranian nuclear deal was that it was limited to the country’s nuclear activities.
“When you look at the range of threats that Iran presents, it is much bigger than nukes; it includes missiles of many varieties, maritime aggressions, cyber-attacks, the export of revolution, terrorizing other nations, destabilizing its neighbors, taking hostages, conducting assassinations, bombings and hijackings,” the US envoy said.
“Over 39 years, it has a very violent record,” he added, stressing the necessity for Iran to change its behavior and return to the negotiations.
Asked whether the US Administration has already prepared the treaty and was waiting for the Iranians to agree to talk about it, Hook said: “We have set forth the areas that we would like to talk about with Iran, and a bit part of that is all the areas that have the positive things for the Iranian people.”
He noted that the current administration “has stood squarely with the Iranian people from the very first day validating their demands for reform.”
“A lot of their reforms are our reforms,” he affirmed.
Asked why Iran would want to sign a treaty with the US as long as it was still receiving support and aid from the European Union within the present nuclear deal, Hook said: “The Iranians may not want to go to the negotiating table now, but history shows that Tehran returns to negotiations when pressure grows on it.”
In this regard, he highlighted a sharp decline in the volume of foreign direct investment in Iran because of the tightening of US sanctions, especially with regard to bank transfers, as well as the problem of inflation and the deterioration of the local currency. He added that Iranians were facing strong economic problems “because they mismanage their economy, make many bad decisions, and spend a lot of money on violent misadventures around the Middle East.”
“At a certain point, the Iranian regime has to decide whether the cost-benefit is there,” the US envoy noted. “We are prepared to be discussing a great many benefits for Iran if Iranians chose to adopt a different path,” he added.