Biden Admin: Former Trump Iran Envoy Facing 'Serious and Credible' Threats

State Dept informs Congress of persistent threat to Brian Hook amid death threats from Iranian officials

Brian Hook
Brian Hook / Getty Images
January 26, 2022

The Trump administration's Iran envoy is facing "serious and credible" threats to his safety, according to a non-public assessment produced this month by the State Department and viewed by the Washington Free Beacon. The determination was delivered to Congress amid a campaign of public death threats by Iran aimed at former president Donald Trump and top administration officials.

The State Department in an unclassified but non-public assessment provided to Congress on Jan. 11 determined that a "specific threat persists with respect to former special representative [for Iran] Brian Hook," who helmed the Trump administration's maximum pressure campaign on Tehran and was instrumental in the assassination of Iranian terror leader Qassem Soleimani. The document does not name the actors behind the threats, describing them only as a "foreign power or the agent of a foreign power."

Iran, however, has repeatedly threatened to kill Trump administration officials, including Hook, as payback for the 2020 drone strike on Soleimani. The State Department determination indicates that Hook has been under a "serious and credible" threat since at least January 2021, when Trump and former secretary of state Mike Pompeo were still in office. The Biden State Department determined on three separate occasions, most recently November 2021, that the threats persist, according to the notification.

The State Department's latest assessment comes amid public comments by top Iranian leaders that threaten the lives of Trump and senior members of his administration. Iranian government accounts on Twitter and other social media sites promised multiple times this month to assassinate Trump, with the regime issuing an official video that depicts a drone strike on the former president. The Biden administration says it takes these threats seriously and will do everything it can to protect former and current officials.

The State Department's notice to Congress was issued just days after a former top Iranian official bragged about the death threats against Hook in the Iranian media. Hussein Mousavian, a former member of Iran's nuclear negotiating team who works as a Middle East security and nuclear policy specialist at Princeton University, sparked a media firestorm when he was seen touting the threats against Hook in a documentary produced by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

"I went to America and an American told me that Brian Hook's wife can't sleep, she cries and trembles, she told Brian, 'They'll kill you,' since Hook was a partner in the death of Haj Qassem [Soleimani], that's how much they were trembling," Mousavian said in the documentary 72 Hours, produced and released this month by a company tied to the corps.

Iran has tried multiple times during the past several years to assassinate and kidnap enemies outside its borders, including in the United States. Four members of an Iranian intelligence network were indicted last year in a New York federal court for attempting to kidnap a prominent regime opponent, highlighting Tehran's reach into the United States. Iran also tried to assassinate the U.S. ambassador in South Africa, as well as Saudi Arabia's ambassador in Washington, D.C.

Mousavian's comments—as well as his close ties to the Iranian ruling regime—put Princeton in the hot seat, with U.S. advocacy groups calling on the high-profile university to fire him. Mousavian, who regularly travels between Iran and the United States, has worked at Princeton since 2009 and has served in senior roles for the Iranian regime. His perch at Princeton demonstrates how Tehran has been able to mainstream its allies into prominent positions at U.S. universities and other American outposts, such as D.C.-based think tanks.

Princeton has been tightlipped about the controversy since generating headlines earlier this month. The university did not respond to Free Beacon requests for comment. Instead, a university spokesman directed the Free Beacon to the school's Statement on Freedom of Expression.

While Mousavian's statement was among the first to shed light on the specific threats against Hook, the State Department assessment does not lay out which threats on Hook's life are credible and which are not.

"Make no mistake: the United States of America will protect and defend its citizens," a State Department official said on background. "We condemn any threats against U.S. citizens and officials, this includes those serving the United States now and those who formerly served."

Update Jan. 27, 1:27 p.m.: This post has been updated with comment from the State Department.