WASHINGTON — The Trump administration's special envoy for Iran, political appointee Brian Hook, is stepping down from his post, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed Wednesday.
Hook has been the point person for the State Department's "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran, a key foreign policy initiative that saw the U.S. withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and the reimpose crippling economic sanctions.
His departure comes as the U.S. pushes the United Nations Security Council to extend an international arms embargo on Iran set to expire in October as part of the nuclear deal. The measure has received mixed support from Security Council members who remain part of the Iran agreement with Russia and China already indicating they will veto the resolution.
"Special Representative Hook has been my point person on Iran for over two years and he has achieved historic results countering the Iranian regime," Pompeo said in a statement. "He has been a trusted advisor to me and a good friend. I thank him for his service."
Pompeo did not provide a reason for Hook’s exit but later said in a tweet he will be moving on to the private sector.
One of the few senior political appointees to remain at the State Department since the start of the Trump administration, Hook previously served as director of policy planning and was a trusted senior adviser to then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Hook also worked alongside Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner to win support for their Mideast peace plan to bring resolution to the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, who to date have rejected the proposal.
Elliott Abrams is slated to take over Hook's duties, adding Iran to his portfolio which already includes leading Venezuela policy for the administration. As special envoy for Venezuela, Abrams has undertaken a similar effort to drive President Nicolas Maduro from power through heavy U.S. sanctions.
Abrams pled guilty in 1991 to being part of the Iran-Contra Affair, a secret deal that involved selling U.S. arms to Iran in order to free American hostages in Lebanon and then using the funds to support armed conflict in Nicaragua. Abrams was later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush.