U.S. envoy heads to Mideast as pressure on Iran mounts

by WorldTribune Staff, June 20, 2019

U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook is headed to the Persian Gulf region to hold meetings with key allies to “discuss Iran’s regional aggression” and share U.S. intelligence “on the range of active threats Iran currently poses in the region,” the State Department said.

The State Department said Hook would leave for the Middle East on June 20 and hold meetings in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain.

A U.S. Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile on June 19 in what U.S. Central Command leaders called an “unprovoked” strike.

Iran claimed the U.S. drone was over Iranian airspace when it was shot down, but American officials stated unequivocally the incident occurred in international airspace.

U.S. Central Command said in a statement that the drone was shot down at approximately 7:35 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

“Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false,” Capt. Bill Urban, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, said in a statement. “This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace.”

President Donald Trump has approved the deployment of 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East amid increased tensions with Iran. The new deployment will include a Patriot missile battalion, manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft and “other deterrence capabilities,” the Pentagon said on June 19.

Recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and near the Strait of Hormuz have exacerbated the situation, with Washington blaming Iran for the incidents.

Hook told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on June 18 that U.S. policy is aimed at bringing Iran to the negotiating table and not starting a new Middle East conflict.

“No one should be uncertain about our desire for peace or our readiness to normalize relations should we reach a comprehensive deal,” Hook told the panel.

“We have put the possibility of a much brighter future on the table for the Iranian people,” he added. “Our pressure campaign is working.”

Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch of the Florida, the House committee chairman, questioned the administration policy, saying, “Rather than force Iran back to the negotiating table, the administration’s policy is increasing the chances of miscalculation, which then would bring the United States and Iran closer to a military conflict.”

Hook said that “our policy is at its core an economic and diplomatic one. Recently, however, Iran has responded to it with violence. Iran should meet diplomacy with diplomacy, not with terror, bloodshed, and extortion.”

The State Department statement said that following his journey to the Middle East, Hook will travel to Europe for consultations with the so-called E3 — Britain, France, and Germany — on June 27 in Paris.

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