Trump's Iran envoy quits administration as US pushes embargo

Full Screen
1 / 2

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2018 file photo, Brian Hook, U.S. special representative for Iran, speaks at the Iranian Materiel Display at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington. The U.S. continues to push for an end of the four-nation boycott of Qatar, even after the hospitalization of Kuwait's ruling emir who led talks to resolve the yearslong dispute, Hook told journalists Sunday, July 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration’s top envoy for Iran is stepping down just as the United States tries to moves ahead with a major diplomatic effort that would extend a U.N. arms embargo against Tehran in the face of widespread international opposition.

Brian Hook announced his departure on Thursday, a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. would call for a U.N. Security Council vote next week on a resolution to indefinitely extend the embargo, which is due to expire in October.

That resolution is expected to fail, setting the stage for a showdown between the U.S. and the other Security Council members over the reimposition of all international sanctions on Iran. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal two years ago but his administration argues it retains the right to invoke the “snapback” of U.N. sanctions because it is a council member. Others disagree.

Hook did not give a reason for leaving, although he has young children and was frequently away from home on travel. He had just returned to the U.S. from an extended trip to the Middle East and Europe during which he tried to drum up support for the Iran arms embargo extension.

Hook, 52, had given few people inside the administration advance notice that he intended to leave and on Wednesday had appeared at a session on Iran at the Aspen Security Forum. Last year, he had been criticized by the now-fired State Department inspector general for alleged political retaliation against a career diplomat on the policy planning staff. Hook denied the charges and was not reprimanded.

Pompeo said in a statement that Hook “has been my point person on Iran for over two years and he has achieved historic results.” Hook will be replaced after an as-yet undetermined transition period by Abrams, a noted hawk on numerous policy issues who is the U.S. special envoy for Venezuela. Abrams also will continue in his job as Venezuela envoy, Pompeo said.

Abrams has led the administration’s push to try to force Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from power by backing his main rival Juan Guaido.

Abrams is perhaps best known for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan administration in which weapons were sold to Iran to support anti-communist rebels in Nicaragua. Abrams, then a National Security Council aide, was convicted of withholding information from Congress about the matter, but was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush.