US calls for Europe to impose sanctions on Iran’s missile program

Washington Examiner – European leaders should impose new sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program, a top U.S. diplomat said while arguing in favor of President Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against the regime.

“We would like to see the European Union [impose] sanctions that target Iran’s missile program,” Brian Hook, the State Department’s special envoy for Iran, said Monday.

Hook addressed the media en route to a meeting of top NATO diplomats in Brussels. The summit will provide an opportunity as well for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with leaders of three key European powers who helped negotiate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, just days after Iran tested a medium-range ballistic missile.

“This is a continuing discussion that the secretary has had with his E3 counterparts about Iran’s missile testing and missile proliferation and regional aggression,” Hook said in a reference to France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. “I believe that we are making progress toward getting a proposal tabled in Brussels that would designate the individuals and the entities that are facilitating Iran’s missile program.”

Hook led the U.S. efforts during the spring to negotiate a supplemental agreement with those countries that would unite western powers in a plan to intensify pressure on Iran. The outcome of the talks, however, fell short of the President Trump’s requirements, and administration announced the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal in May.

“Iran’s continued testing and proliferation of ballistic missiles shows that the Iran deal has not moderated the Iranian regime as some had hope,” Hook said. “It was a mistake to exclude missiles from the Iran nuclear deal. And, it is one of the principal reasons that the United States left it.”

Hook led the U.S. efforts during the spring to negotiate a supplemental agreement with those countries that would unite western powers in a plan to intensify pressure on Iran. The outcome of the talks fell short of the president’s requirements, however, the and administration announced the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal in May.

“Iran’s continued testing and proliferation of ballistic missiles shows that the Iran deal has not moderated the Iranian regime as some had hope,” Hook said. “It was a mistake to exclude missiles from the Iran nuclear deal. And, it is one of the principal reasons that the United States left it.”

Pompeo will meet Monday evening with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has likewise denounced the Iran nuclear deal and urged European officials and international monitors to take a hard line on inspecting the regime’s nuclear program.

If western officials unite in imposing new missile sanctions, the Europeans nonetheless have been trying to preserve the broader structure of the nuclear agreement, most recently with the announcement that they would establish a “special purpose vehicle” to facilitate financial transactions between European companies and Iran. This plan, announced at the United Nations General Assembly, angered the Trump administration. But Hook argued Monday that it is proving to be an impotent tactic because major companies fear being blacklisted from the U.S. market if they conduct business in Iran.

“The United States still continues to see no-to-little demand for a special purpose vehicle by any significant corporation,” he told reporters. “The special purpose vehicle is like a reverse ‘Field of Dreams.’ If you build it, they will not come.”