- The Washington Times
Monday, December 3, 2018

The Trump administration’s point man on Iran policy sharply condemned Tehran’s latest ballistic missile test Monday, saying they increase the risk of a “regional conflict” and only strengthen Washington’s case for isolating the Islamic republic.

State Department Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said the administration is hoping the weekend mid-range ballistic missile test — carried out, the U.S. contends, in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions — will inspire European nations to join with President Trump’s policy of reimposing wide-ranging economic sanctions against Tehran.

“We would like to see the European Union move sanctions that target Iran’s missile program,” Mr. Hook told reporters traveling Monday with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Brussels, where U.S. officials will meet with their European counterparts at a NATO ministerial meeting.

State Department officials said Mr. Pompeo will also be meeting in Brussels with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has previously warned that Israel won’t hesitate to take military action against in retaliation to Iranian provocations.

The Iranian government, which tested a mid-range ballistic missile Saturday, has claimed the test was purely defensive, and that it was Washington that was in violation of the U.N. resolution endorsing the 2015 nuclear deal following President Trump’s withdrawal from the pact this spring.

“No U.N. Security Council resolution has banned Iran’s missile program or missile tests,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi told reporters in Tehran Sunday.

The missile tests come amid rising tension between Washington and Tehran in the wake of Mr. Trump’s decision earlier this year to withdraw from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal and to reimpose wide-ranging economic sanctions on Iran.

Mr. Hook flatly rejected Tehran’s claim about the test Monday. “How exactly is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism entitled to the claim of defense?” he said. “In fact, Iran’s security concerns are entirely self-generated.”

“For the last 12 years, the U.N. Security Council has been telling the Iranian regime to stop testing and proliferating ballistic missiles and Iran continues to defy the U.N. Security Council by acting like an outlaw regime,” he said. “Iran’s continued testing and proliferation of ballistic missiles shows that the Iran deal has not moderated the Iranian regime as some have hoped.

“It was a mistake to exclude missiles from the Iran nuclear deal and it is one of the principle reasons that the United States left it,” Mr. Hook added.

The European Union, Germany, France and Britain — all of whom were party to the 2015 nuclear deal — have so far been reluctant to join the Trump administration’s push to re-isolate Iran on the international stage.

Mr. Hook expressed hope Monday that the latest developments might change that.

The U.S. and the Europeans “share the same threat assessment,” he said. “They all know that Iran is acting in defiance of the Security Council and that [Iran’s] missiles are a threat to peace and security.”

“The Europeans understand that fully and 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,” Mr. Hook said.

“It is a grave and escalating threat, and nations around the world, not just Europe, need to do everything they can to be targeting Iran’s missile program,” he said. “We have been warning the world for some time that we are accumulating risk of a regional conflict if we do not deter Iran’s missile testing and proliferation.”

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