US is open to dialogue with Iran, special envoy Hook says

Bloomberg – The U.S. is open to dialogue with Iran even as Washington enforces sanctions against the Islamic Republic, Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, said in a Bloomberg TV interview.

It’s widely known that Iran was behind the attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities in September, and the Saudi government at some point will present evidence of Iran’s complicity to the United Nations Security Council, he said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is also in the Qatari capital, though he has no permission from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to talk with Americans, Hook said.

The U.S. has imposed sanctions on Iran for what it considers the Persian Gulf country’s aggressive and destabilizing policies in the region, such as the proxy war with U.S. ally Saudi Arabia in Yemen. Iran denies responsibility for the Sept. 14 aerial strikes on Saudi installations.

Widespread protests in Iran in recent weeks are “anti-regime” in nature even if they aren’t evidence of pro-U.S. sentiment, Hook said. U.S. sanctions do not restrict imports of medical supplies into Iran and are not causing a humanitarian crisis there, he said.

Hook said he sees a positive trend among Arab nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council over the healing of a rift over Qatar. The U.S. is hopeful of a reconciliation between Qatar and three of its neighbors — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — which severed diplomatic and economic ties with Doha over its alleged support for Iranian. Qatar has denied the accusation.

A decision to end the dispute lies with leaders in the GCC, but the U.S. has made it clear that it’s easier to confront Iran if the six-member regional group — which includes Kuwait and Oman — is unified, Hook said.

— With assistance by Fiona MacDonald, and Giovanni Prati