A Conversation With Brian Hook
American diplomat in an exclusive interview with Voice of America spoke about the release of a graduate student at Pristan University and the relationship between Washington and Tehran
“Voice of America”: The US Congress is glad that it was possible to return the Americans detained by Iran home. You were in Switzerland and saw the release of Princeton University graduate student Wang Xiyue. Could you please share your impressions?
Brian Hook, US State Department Special Representative for Iran: “It was an important day for American diplomacy, but it was much more significant for Wang Xiyue. The United States has worked to free all Americans held in Iran over the past three years. We are trying to get them released. We have made efforts to establish a consular dialogue with Iran so that we can withdraw the Americans. About three or four weeks ago, we started receiving positive signals from the Iranians, and then, working through the Swiss, we were able to negotiate the release of Wang Xiyue. When we were in Zurich, it was a really important moment – to welcome Wang Xiyue at home, to release him from custody in Iran, from an Iranian prison. He is a brave and amazing person. He is currently at Ramstein Air Force Base with his wife and son. They are now reunited. I think that he is receiving qualified medical care. It is in excellent condition. I admire his resilience, and when he is ready, after receiving the necessary medical attention, he will return to the United States. “
“GA”: “What was his first question when you met?”
BH: He just said it was great to be American. These were his first words. It was a very emotional moment. I really admire him. I know his wife Hua. She tirelessly advocated for his release, and I met with her. We spoke on the phone several times. There are other families whose members are imprisoned and we are trying to get them released. Xiyue made it clear to me that he wanted to secure the release of all of them. And I know that he will work with us. We will do our best to bring people like Bob Levinson, Nemazi and others back home. We work on this every day “.
“GA”: “Xiyue was born in Beijing, now he is a US citizen.”
BH: This is true.
“GA”: “His wife also has dual citizenship. Did China take part in the process of his release? “
BH: “I don’t know anything about this”.
“GA”: “After the exchange of Wang Xiyue and Suleimani, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that Iran is ready for a comprehensive prisoner exchange. What do you think about it? How seriously does the US take such a statement? “
BH: “Unfortunately, Foreign Minister Zarif has a long history of creating false hope in American families. He constantly says what we then check and double-check, and then it turns out that there is no proposal as such. We were able to achieve a successful exchange this time and it was fair negotiations. We are very pleased with the result. We are not trumpeting at every corner that we are trying to get our citizens out of Iran. It is for this reason that I have not spoken to the media or anyone for the past three or four weeks when I negotiated Xiyue Wang’s release. This is the correct approach to solving such problems. I don’t think it is worthwhile to publicly discuss the topic of liberation. We’re just trying to get the Americans home using quiet diplomacy. At the same time, I am going to continue communicating with the Iranians. I will work through the Swiss, they were fantastic. They act as a patronizing power: we do not have an ambassador to Iran. Therefore, we rely on the Swiss to represent us in Iran. And they were great. Markus Leitner, the Swiss ambassador to Iran, was an excellent partner in helping get Xiyue Wang out of prison. I will continue to work with him and the Iranians. This is a good first step, and I hope it will lead to more and better results. “.
“GA”: “It looks like a recent exchange could open any door. Are there any indications that the Iranians may want to sit down to the negotiating table to discuss other unresolved issues?.
BH: “I don’t think that the diplomats in Iran that I met have any mandate from the supreme leader to discuss anything with the Americans. Of course, I was open to talking with them, but that was American policy. The President, the Secretary of State, everyone made it clear that we, we want to resolve our diplomatic differences on a bilateral basis, through diplomacy, not through military force – this is what Iran chose, and this is the wrong choice because their economies are in decline. and the regime finds itself more and more in diplomatic isolation. There are many people in the Iranian Foreign Ministry who would like to talk to the United States and would like to sit down at the negotiating table, but the supreme leader will not allow them to do so. I think this became clear in Zurich. We hope that at some point the supreme leader will start making better choices in favor of his citizens. “.
“GA”: “Is the USA in favor of a change of power in Tehran?”
BH: “I have said repeatedly that the policy of the United States is to change behavior, not regime change. Everyone knows that we have a list of 12 requirements. Most of them are based on UN Security Council resolutions that were adopted unanimously, including with the support of China and Russia. These were international standards before the failure of the Iran nuclear deal. We are trying to restore these standards. Most of the things we ask for you can find in the UN Security Council resolution. This is not an unrealistic list. He’s very realistic. And for those who think this is too ambitious, I would ask these people to determine which of the 12 things they would like Iran to continue to do? Do they want Iran to continue enriching uranium? Do they want Iran to build ballistic missiles and send billions of dollars to Assad and the Houthis so they can strike other countries? This is the correct list, this is the correct approach. We are very pleased with the success of our maximum pressure campaign. “.
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Brian Hook: US policy is about behavior change, not regime change in Iran
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