STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The Trump administration delivered a message to Iran yesterday.
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MIKE POMPEO: Understand that your current activities will be met with steely resolve.
INSKEEP: That's Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a speech yesterday at a conservative think tank here in Washington, D.C. He was following up on the U.S. withdrawal from a nuclear deal with Iran. Pompeo promised massive sanctions. And he said Iran could get out of them only by meeting a list of 12 U.S. demands, including abandoning all nuclear work in perpetuity and dropping support for groups like Hezbollah.
Brian Hook is a senior adviser to the secretary of state and director of policy planning at the State Department. He's in our studios. Welcome back to the program, sir.
BRIAN HOOK: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: Do you expect Iran to meet all 12 of these demands?
HOOK: What we've done is set forth 12 objectives that we think are very realistic. And these are all, I think, objectives that have been shared across American administrations - during the Obama administration, the Bush administration, this administration. We all share a lot of the same goals about stopping Iran's nuclear program, stopping its support for terrorism and proxy wars across the Middle East, stopping its threatening behavior against neighbors. And whether Iran agrees with these goals or not isn't entirely material.
INSKEEP: Well, from an American perspective, they nearly all sound great. I mean, who wants Iran to keep supporting Hamas, for example? But can you get them all in this particular context without a broader conflict of some kind?
HOOK: Oh, we certainly can. I think that - I've certainly seen commentary that people have said that some of these demands aren't realistic or they're challenging. But that's not really an argument. I think it's also - there's an air of defeatism that's not really in the best traditions of American diplomacy. And I - is it more realistic to accept Iran fighting civil wars and terrorizing people across the Middle East? This list, these 12 national security objectives that we've identified, largely grew out of negotiations with the E3...
INSKEEP: The European allies...
HOOK: Yeah. I'm sorry.
INSKEEP: ...Who are part of this.
HOOK: Yeah, with our European allies. And so - and I would also just observe that the size of this list reflects the massive scope of Iran's destructive behavior. This isn't a to-do list that America created. It's something in response to Iran's list.
INSKEEP: Well, let's go through a couple of items here and a couple of responses to that list. Iranians, we know from experience, tend to turn demands back on the people making them. You say, Iran, stop involving yourself in Yemen's civil war. They're likely to say, well, you guys are involved in Yemen's civil war. Are you getting out? Is the United States getting out of Yemen?
HOOK: Well, we would like to see a political solution to the civil war in Yemen. Iran has been supporting the Houthis in Yemen. That has created a humanitarian catastrophe. But it's not just in Yemen. Iran has been supporting proxy wars in Yemen, also in Syria. They've been supporting sectarian Shia militias in Iraq. This is the kind of behavior that, in a very strange way, the Iran nuclear deal created this environment that enabled Iranian expansionism. But it also put enormous diplomatic restraints on the United States. We need a new security framework that addresses the entire range of Iran's threats.
INSKEEP: We should mention, just to note, that critics would say that Saudi Arabia's intervention in Yemen is part of the humanitarian catastrophe. They're a U.S. ally.
But without arguing that for the moment, let me ask about these demands. Trita Parsi of the Iranian American Business Council (ph) - he's an American who's been interested in the nuclear deal and interested in Iranian affairs for a long time - said after the secretary of state's speech, quote, "combining maximum pressure with proven unachievable demands is a recipe for war, not negotiations."
Let me just put it right out there - is the endgame war?
HOOK: No. What we are seeking are changes in the Iranian government's policies. And I think statements like that are overheated and hyperbolic. We've seen the international community come together in the past to create pressure on the Iranian regime. And that brought Iran to the negotiating table. Unfortunately, the prior administration was not able to achieve its own objectives. And we're much more hopeful about achieving ours.
INSKEEP: Although you seem to be having to do it without European allies at the moment.
HOOK: I don't think that's the case. You've seen a number of European companies like Total and Siemens who've already decided to end business with Iran. Other countries will follow as international sanctions come into effect.
INSKEEP: Oh, let's talk about that because the European diplomatic service put out a statement yesterday after the speech. They said this deal was endorsed by the United Nations Security Council and the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran constitutes an essential part of the agreement.
You're smiling a little bit. European governments are standing behind this nuclear deal. Do you think that European companies ultimately will not?
HOOK: Well, the Europeans fail to point out that the Iran deal was not endorsed by the United States Congress. The Obama administration did not have the votes for the Iran nuclear deal, and so they found votes in the U.N. Security Council for it.
We think that the Iran deal should have been submitted as a treaty. And as Secretary Pompeo said yesterday, our objective here is to seek a treaty relationship with Iran. And if Iran acts more responsibly, we are prepared to make major and positive changes to benefit the Iranian people, which include ending the sanctions, full diplomatic ties, welcoming Iran into the world economy. I think the longest-suffering victims of the Iranian regime are its own people. And so much of the focus of Secretary Pompeo's speech yesterday was a much brighter future for the Iranian people.
INSKEEP: Full diplomatic ties - this is something the United States has not had since Iranians took hostages at the U.S. Embassy in 1979. Is the administration seriously prepared to go there?
HOOK: Yes, we are. But that is premised upon Iran changing its behavior - stopping its nuclear program, stopping its support for terrorism and proxy wars. We are ready to enter into a much better relationship with Iran if Iran is able to make adjustments in its policies.
INSKEEP: Brian Hook, senior adviser to the secretary of state.
Thanks for coming by.
HOOK: Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.