On Thursday, August 6 US Special Envoy to Iran Brian Hook announced his resignation, although a senior government official claimed that Hook had been asked to step down due to his alleged failure to give maximum pressures on Iran.

The senior official also told Washington Post that Iran had violated a uranium enrichment limit, accumulation, and production.

Pompeo Praises Hook

However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thanked Hook for the service for two years and praised him for successfully negotiating with Tehran for the release of two Americans.

“He successfully negotiated with the Iranians the release of Michael White and Xiyue Wang from prison. Special Representative Hook also served with distinction as the Director of Policy Planning and set into motion a range of new strategies that advanced the national security interests of the United States and our allies,” Pompeo said, adding that “he has been a trusted advisor to me and a good friend. I thank him for his service.” 

Hook to be Replaced by Elliott Abrams

The departure of Hook—who will be replaced by Elliott Abrams, a special representative for Venezuela and an anti-Iran hardliner—shows the Trump administration’s dissatisfaction over Iran. This is especially true given that US sanctions did not deter Iran from building its military and enriching uranium after the US left the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 — the Joint Comprehensive Plans of Action (JCPOA). Despite slamming the agreement as ineffective in pushing Iran to actually halt its nuclear ambitions, US withdrawal and sanctions have also not succeeded thus far.

China’s Military Base in Iran

Indonesian international affairs lecturer Yusran told InsideOver that the US is panicking over China’s plan to build a military base in Iran, given that Washington and Beijing have been involved in several spats, from trade and technology to the military showdown in the contested South China Sea.

“From what I heard China is going to set up a military base in Iran, which makes the US panic. Also, we see the sanctions will not stop Iran from building its military and enhancing its uranium even though Tehran allows an inspection from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),” the lecturer at Budi Luhur University stated.

The military exercise held by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) two weeks ago also sent a warning that Iran is continuing to equip its military with sophisticated weapons.

Could There be a New Nuclear Deal?

The answer is uncertain and it is unlikely to happen unless all the JCPOA signatories can sit together to solve the dispute.

“European countries — particularly Germany and Russia which are signatories to the deal — can put pressure on the US to negotiate,” Yusran said.

Germany is seen as the most influential power in the continent, with a stable political situation. European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen is also from Germany. 

While Russia is respected as one of the world’s nuclear powers and military powerhouses, Russia, as well as China also has a good relationship with Iran and the three nations held a joint military exercise at the end of 2019.

Yusran hailed the JCPOA as the most effective deal, signed by the Obama administration in 2015. The agreement stipulates a limit on the extended time needed by Iran to produce a nuclear bomb.

How Worried is the US About Iran?

The US is the world’s military powerhouse. However, Washington is concerned that a nuclear Iran will threaten the Middle Eastern stability.

“Of course, the US is above all. However, when it comes to uranium enrichment, the US may have worried that it would trigger a nuclear war in the volatile Middle East,” the head of the Indonesian International Affairs Association (AIHII) stated.

“The military option will not create a stable region as we see how the situation is going on in the Middle East. Look at Syria, Libya, and Lebanon. Also, many countries are entering the region to exert their influence. For example, China and Turkey,” he added.

US Withdrawal from Iran Nuclear Deal Sparked Worldwide Protests

The White House departure from the JCPOA sparked a worldwide protest. Trump alleged that Iran had violated the deal despite the IAEA saying the opposite.

The European Union protested Trump’s unilateral withdrawal. The bloc set up a mechanism that facilitates financial transactions with Tehran without avoiding the US sanction aimed at maintaining Europe’s interest in Iran.

“European countries also want to maintain a good relationship with Iran since they have companies operating in Iran. They also want to protect their assets in Iran,” Yusran said.

Maximum Pressure on Iran and the US Election

Yusran elaborated that Trump would use the Iran issue to boost electability among Conservative voters since the real estate mogul’s popularity has declined, mainly due to the COVID-19 mitigation and the mass protest against police brutality last May.

“Foreign issues can be utilized to boost votes ahead of the 2020 presidential election,” Yusran stated.

Trump has unilaterally withdrawn from several international agreements such as the JCPOA and the INF (Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces). The most recent is the U.S announced its formal withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO) in July 2021.

“When it comes to foreign affairs, Trump seems to take an anti-mainstream measure by unilaterally abandoning the international agreement. We will see whether his ‘breakthrough’ will help him in the election,” Yusran said, wrapping up the interview.

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