The US special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, told Al-Monitor that Iran is “missing good opportunities” by refusing direct talks with the United States.
Door for diplomacy “wide open.” In an exclusive interview with Al-Monitor’s “On the Middle East” podcast, Hook, who also serves as special adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said he hopes the prospects are good for further prisoner exchanges with Iran and perhaps progress on other issues as well. But despite repeated offer of direct talks, Iran won’t come to the table.
“I have requested a consular in-person dialogue with the regime,” Hook said, adding that he doesn't believe Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has provided his diplomats with a mandate for direct negotiations.
Until there are such talks, Hook said, the US will rely on the good offices and mediation of the government of Switzerland, which represents US interests in Tehran.
Missed opportunities. If there were talks, Iran could explore US President Donald Trump’s offer of a “bigger deal,” Hook said. “That’s what the president would like to see. He’s had the door wide open for diplomacy for a number of years...This is another example of the Iranian regime missing good opportunities to make progress. The president would like to get a better deal, and that’s what he communicated in his statements after we brought home Michael White.”
No hurry. The US is not in a hurry, said Hook. “Our strategy against Iran is working.”
No right to enrichment. Any new nuclear deal with Iran would not include a right to enrichment, Hook said. Absent enrichment, there is no pathway for an Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. Hook referred to the United Arab Emirates as a “shining example of the right path on nuclear energy.”
UN arms embargo on Iran must stay. Hook said, “There is no national security argument to allow the UN arms embargo on Iran to expire” in four months, as stipulated in the Iran nuclear deal. No member of the Security Council can argue “with a straight face that what the region needs is the arms embargo to expire on the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism … and anti-Semitism.”
On Iraq. Hook said, “We are very pleased with the trend lines in Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi is off to a very good start,” adding, “The Iraqi people are fed up with Iranian interference in their domestic matters.”
Listen to the podcast: These are just a few highlights of my interview with Brian Hook; you can listen to the podcast here.