ElliotAbrams
© Reuters
Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela Elliot Abrams
The US is putting Iran on regime-change notice, appointing Iran-Contra convict Elliott Abrams as Special Representative for Iran in addition to his duties as Special Representative for Venezuela, a State Department release shows.

Abrams, who oversaw a series of failed coups in Venezuela both in the past year and during the botched 2002 coup against then-President Hugo Chavez, will take over from Brian Hook, who has "decided to step down," according to a press release from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Pompeo lauded Hook's efforts in the statement, declaring he had "achieved historic results countering the Iranian regime." The outgoing official oversaw the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" campaign against Tehran, leveling sanction upon sanction against the Islamic Republic after withdrawing the US from the JCPOA nuclear deal in 2018. Hook praised his own record to the New York Times on Thursday, declaring that "by almost every metric, the regime and its terrorist proxies are weaker than three and a half years ago. We have been very successful."

Pompeo lauded Hook's efforts in the statement, declaring he had "achieved historic results countering the Iranian regime." The outgoing official oversaw the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" campaign against Tehran, leveling sanction upon sanction against the Islamic Republic after withdrawing the US from the JCPOA nuclear deal in 2018. Hook praised his own record to the New York Times on Thursday, declaring that "by almost every metric, the regime and its terrorist proxies are weaker than three and a half years ago. We have been very successful."

Tensions between the two countries nearly spiraled into war in January after a US airstrike killed Quds Force leader Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, provoking a barrage of missiles from Iran targeting two coalition bases in Iraq. The US has also flooded the Persian Gulf with military assets and placed bounties on Iranian ships and other military assets.

Abrams has been a ubiquitous presence in the US' regime-change efforts in Latin America, helping to replace left-leaning governments with right-wing dictatorships in El Salvador and Guatemala and attempting similar makeovers in Nicaragua and Venezuela. In 1991, he pleaded guilty to two minor criminal counts regarding the Iran-Contra scandal, in which the CIA illegally funneled weapons to the Nicaraguan Contras. However, he was subsequently pardoned by then-President George HW Bush and went on to continue undermining democratically-elected governments under George W. Bush and Donald Trump.

The promotion comes ahead of a hotly-anticipated UN Security Council vote on extending the arms embargo on Iran. If the measure does not pass, the US has threatened to trigger "snapback" sanctions agreed upon as part of the 2015 nuclear deal - despite having pulled out of the deal years ago and therefore lacking an ability to enforce its provisions as a "participating nation."