Biden should make Iran pay a price for proxy attacks, says former Trump aide

By Thomson Reuters Feb 28, 2024 | 2:13 PM

By Arshad Mohammed

(Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden should make Iran pay a direct price for attacks on U.S. forces by Iranian-backed proxies, the former top Iran official in the Trump administration said on Wednesday.

Brian Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran under former President Donald Trump, told lawmakers the Islamic republic has historically “operated in the gray zone and they let the proxies do the dying for them.”

“But Iran is not feeling any of the pain. And until Iran – the regime – starts feeling it, they are going to continue to operate with impunity in the gray zone,” added Hook, who could play a role in a second Trump administration if the Republican former president were to defeat Biden in the Nov. 5 U.S. presidential election.

Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, Iran-backed forces have conducted 170 attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria. Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis have launched at least 60 attacks on commercial ships as well as on U.S. and U.S.-partnered warships.

“The Biden administration should announce that they make no distinction between Iran and its proxies and anything that a proxy does we will attribute agency to the Iranian regime and they will be held accountable as if it were a direct attack,” Hook told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“I don’t think that Iran itself has endured sufficient costs directly,” Hook added, noting the United States had retaliated against groups such as the Kataib Hezbollah Iraqi militia and other Iranian-backed proxy forces.

Three U.S. service members were killed in a Jan. 28 drone attack by Iran-backed militants on U.S. troops in northeastern Jordan near the Syrian border. The Pentagon said the attack bore the “footprints” of Kataib Hezbollah.

Starting Feb. 3, U.S. forces launched retaliatory airstrikes in Iraq and Syria on targets linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and militias it backs. There has since been a lull in attacks on U.S. forces by such groups in Iraq and Syria.

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Saint Paul, Minnesota; Editing by Nia Williams)