WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) - In testimony before the Middle East subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Brian Hook, US Special Representative for Iran and Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State, described how Iran operates to expand its presence in the Middle East.
As Special Representative Hook explained, Iran creates parallel institutions to the official institutions of those states over which it seeks influence. It then uses the institutions it has created to undermine the authority of the governments it has targeted and subvert them from within.
Hook provided that analysis, as he explained US goals in Iraq. “We very much want to see Iraq strong, stable and sovereign,” he told the Congressional panel, as he described what is essentially a competition between the US and Iran for influence in that country.
“We want the Iraqi military to have a monopoly on military force,” Hook affirmed. “We do not want to see the PMF [Popular Mobilization Forces], especially those that Qasim Soleimani organizes, trains, and equips to be stronger.”
“We don’t need two states within a state,” he continued. “We don’t need two militaries with a state.”
Tehran’s modus operandi, Hook explained, “is to try to create two militaries within a state and two states within a state.” Iran seeks “to catalyze sectarian identities and dissolve national identities,” as it “adds a religious dimension to political conflicts” to mobilize support for its parallel institutions and, ultimately, for Tehran itself.
Iran has done that with considerable success in Lebanon, where Hizbollah operates as a state within a state, and it is now trying to do the same in Yemen and Iraq.
Hook described the Trump administration’s “two primary objectives” in regard to Iran. The first is to deprive the regime of the funds that it needs to carry out “its destabilizing activities,” while the second goal is to cause Iran to accept negotiations on a new “comprehensive and enduring” agreement that would rectify the shortcomings in the 2015 nuclear deal.
The “comprehensive deal” would address four issues: Iran’s nuclear program; its ballistic missile program; its support for “terrorist groups and proxies;” and its hostage diplomacy—the “arbitrary detention of US citizens,” as Hook diplomatically put it.
The Special Representative told the House panel that the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign was succeeding, as he stated that Iran’s most recent budget contains a 28% cut in military spending, including a 17% cut for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC.)
He also noted that the “IRGC has told Iraq’s Shi’a militia groups that they need to start looking for new sources of revenue.”
Hook repeatedly emphasized that the Trump administration does not want military conflict with Iran. The “core” of our policy, he said, is “economic and diplomatic.” However, Tehran has not responded in kind. Rather, “it has responded with violence.”
Hook’s public appearance before the House Foreign Affairs Committee was followed by a classified session, also focused on Iran, with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Following his Congressional testimony, Hook departed for the Middle East, where he will hold meetings in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain.
The Special Representative “will discuss Iran’s regional aggression, including its recent attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman” in those countries, a State Department announcement said. He “will also share additional US intelligence on the range of active threats Iran currently poses to the region.”
Subsequently, Hook will travel to Paris, where he will meet with “counterparts” from the UK, Germany. and France “to discuss a range of issues concerning the Iranian regime,” it added.
As tensions rise with Iran, the Trump administration is seeking to mobilize international support for its policy.
Hook provided new information to the House committee, telling the panel, “Our intelligence confirms that Iranian vessels operating in and around the Strait of Hormuz on June 12th and 13th” approached the Norwegian and Japanese tankers, “before each vessel suffered explosions,” and “we assess this activity as consistent with an Iranian operation to attach limpet mines to the vessels.”
As the State Department explained, Hook will present significantly more such intelligence in his meetings in the Middle East, as well as in Paris.