WASHINGTON – The Trump administration has created an “elite team” at the US State Department on Iran policy hoping to streamline execution of its newly aggressive strategy toward the Islamic Republic.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the team will be responsible with “directing, reviewing and coordinating all aspects of the State Department’s Iran-related activity,” reporting directly to him.

“Our hope is that one day soon we can make a new agreement with Iran, but we must see major changes,” Pompeo said. US President Donald Trump pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran in May and has directed his administration to apply “maximum economic pressure” on the country to change its behavior.

Brian Hook, a veteran diplomat, will lead the group with the new title of special representative for Iran. Hook was primarily responsible with forging a strategy for the administration on exiting the nuclear agreement, and is currently liaising with US allies as sanctions once lifted by the deal snap back into effect.

Hook said Iran will have to demonstrate its willingness to fundamentally change its behavior in the region before direct talks can resume between the two nations. The Trump administration believes Iranian forces are primarily responsible for the continued destabilization of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

“The scope of Iranian malign activity is so wide-ranging,” Hook told State Department reporters on Thursday. “The Iran regime has been a force for instability and violence.”

He declined to name any other officials on the new team, but said it comprised a core staff of several permanent personnel.

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