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Iranian Media Call New U.S. Action Group 'Aggressive Policy'

U.S. -- Brian Hook, Director of Policy Planning, speaks to the media about Iran, in the press briefing room at the Department of State, in Washington, June 2, 2018

Iran's state TV has characterized the formation of the Iran Action Group at the US Department of State on Thursday August 16 "an aggressive policy," and IRGC-linked Fars news agency called it "the action group against Iran."

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Thursday August 16 that the State Department has formed an Iran Action Group to "direct, review and coordinate all aspects of the State Department's Iran-related activity."

Meanwhile, DoS Senior Policy Adviser Brian Hook who chairs the group has described the group's formation as "a comprehensive approach to Iran."

Stressing that "The Iran regime has been a force for instability and violence," Hook said that Pompeo announced in May a new "Iran strategy to protect America’s national security, the security of our allies and partners, and to promote a brighter future for the Iranian people. And we have taken a comprehensive approach to Iran because the scope of Iranian malign activity is so wide-ranging, from its aspirations of nuclear weapons, its support for terrorism, its cyber activity, its proliferation of ballistic missiles, and much more."

" Our new strategy addresses all manifestations of the Iranian threat and the new Iran Action Group will be focused on implementing that strategy. We have an elite team of foreign affairs professionals here at the State Department and across the administration," Hook told reporters in Washington on Thursday.

Some observers see the new initiative as a sign of the toughening of US policy toward Iran. While efforts to start dialogue with Iran continues, sanctions are likely to remain in force as long as Iran's behaviour has not changed.

Hook said, "If the Iranian regime demonstrates a commitment to make fundamental changes in its behavior, then the President is prepared to engage in dialogue in order to find solutions. But the sanctions relief, the reestablishment of full diplomatic and commercial relations with the United States, and economic cooperation with the United States can only begin after we see that the Iranian regime is serious about changing its behavior."

During Thursday's briefing, reporters asked whether the US would also exert pressure on China to cut oil imports from Iran. Hook did not give a definite answer, but said, "our goal is to reduce every country’s import of Iranian oil to zero by November 4th, and we are prepared to work with countries that are reducing their imports on a case-by-case basis."

Press TV, the Iranian state TV's English language rolling news service characterized the measure on its website as "an aggressive policy toward Tehran," and quoted what it called a US-based political analyst as having said that the measure carries a message, "but not for the Iranian people."

Press TV quoted Don DeBar, a radio host in New York State as saying "if there was a message intended, it was for domestic consumption here, to make it appear that Trump is being tough while allowing him to strike a reasonable deal with Iran. It's the same tactic they used with North Korea.”

The Iranian state TV also quoted, Daniel Patrick Welch, an anti-war activist, as saying that the United States “has always maintained a coterie of war planners' intent on fomenting war with Iran.”

Describing the measure as an "aggressive sabre-rattling", he added that China and Russia "are more determined than ever to prevent another reckless and murderous US war adventure.”

In the United States, the Foreign Policy described the Iran Action Group as a group that will "coordinate the Trump administration’s rising political and economic pressure on Iran," in what Pompeo described as an effort to compel the regime to halt decades of “violent and destabilizing behavior.”

Foreign Policy added that with the new appointment, Hook is expected to step down as director of policy planning, one of the most influential positions at the State Department. Hook had been appointed to the post by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Meanwhile, regional media reactions also indicate that Iran is likely to come under more pressure as the action group starts its activities.

Pan-Arab TV Al-Jazeera's website quoted a US-based Iranian analyst as saying that the new policy initiative puts the US "on the path to war with Iran".

The New Arab news website described the Iran Action Group as "a high-level team to focus US and international efforts to increase diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran."

The Russian Sputnik News evaluated the measure as a sign of "further deterioration" of US relations with Iran in the wake of the US pull-out from the nuclear deal with Tehran.