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    US is ‘Zealously Neutral’ About Iranian Groups It Wants to Replace ‘Corrupt Religious Elite’ – Envoy

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    Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir and US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook have commented on the increasing tensions between Iran and the United States.

    Iran can either sit at the negotiating table or continue to watch its economy "crumble", US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook stated, accusing Tehran of "violent responses to diplomatic pressure".

    "They are in a recession now, it is going to get significantly worse", he said ahead of an expected announcement later on 24 June on further US sanctions.

    He continued on by saying that Washington is "zealously neutral" about Iranian groups it wants to replace the "corrupt religious elite". 

    According to Hook, US President Trump is very willing to sit down with Iran.

    "This is a president who is very willing to sit down with the regime. I think the question people should be asking is ... why Iran continues to reject diplomacy", he said.

    The US is prepared to restore diplomatic ties with Iran, to lift sanctions if Tehran is willing to do a deal, but the deal comes first, Hook noted.

    Hook further elaborated that elements of a deal with Tehran would have to include an end to the detention of dual nationals in Iran and an end to supporting what he claimed were Iranian proxies in the Middle East who commit secret attacks on Iran's behalf.

    The US Special Representative also emphasised he had shared intelligence on "current threats" posed by Iran during his visit to several countries in the Middle East.

    "During all of my meetings in the four countries that I've visited ... during all of my meetings here in the Gulf, I have shared all of our declassified intelligence and also the detailed assessment of the current threats that are posed by Iran. These threats continue", Hook told reporters.

    Hook said he had touched upon the need to "enhance cooperation" and ensure safe and free navigation in and around the Strait of Hormuz.

    Meanwhile, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir stated in an interview that if Iran continues its "aggressive policies" more sanctions will come. 

    "Today, Iran is under severe economic sanctions. These sanctions will be strengthened. If Iran continues its aggressive policies, it will have to pay the price", Adel al-Jubeir told the newspaper Le Monde.

    Adel al-Jubeir also stated that a potential war between Iran and the United States would be dangerous for everyone, but blamed Tehran for increasing the tensions in the Gulf region.

    The statement comes amid an escalation of tensions between the United States and Iran a year after Washington withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic. The United States is planning to announce new sanctions against Iran on 24 June in the wake of Tehran downing a US drone. US President Donald Trump mentioned new restrictions on 22 June, without specifying what measures would be taken.

    Before that, the US president stated that he had called off a retaliatory strike on Iranian targets after he was told that an estimated 150 Iranians could be killed as a result.

    Earlier in the month, the United States increased its military presence in the Persian Gulf in what US National Security Adviser John Bolton claimed was "a clear and unmistakable signal to the Iranian regime that any attack on the interests of the United States or [its] allies will be met with ruthless force".

    At the same time, US President Donald Trump has stated that he hoped to avoid a war with Iran. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also announced that Iran does not intend to wage war with the United States but will continue to resist its pressure.

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    Tags:
    Brian Hook, Adel al-Jubeir, sanctions, aggressive policy, United States, Iran, Saudi Arabia
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