Brian Hook, the State Department's special representative on Iran, says the U.S. campaign of economic pressure on Iran has had "a lot of progress" to the extent that Tehran has decreased its military budget and its client, the Lebanese Hezbollah is making public appeals for donations.
Speaking in an interview with Alhurra television on March 15, Hook said, "What you can expect to see as the result of our sanctions on Iran is further denying the regime of its revenues. I think you have recently seen Iran's best client, the Lebanese Hezbollah, making public appeal for donations. This is I think a consequence of our sanctions," adding that "You know that the Iranian regime has decreased the budget for its defense and for the IRGC. We certainly are making a lot of progress in our campaign of economic pressures on Iran."
Asked whether Iran had any success in evading US sanctions, Hook said, he did not think Iranians made progress in evading U.S. sanctions. "We know that our campaign of maximum economic pressure is having a significant effect on the Iranian regime. We are denying the regime billions and billions of dollars partly through our oil and financial sanctions, and also we are closing a lot of loopholes," he said.
"To deter the regime from evading our sanctions we are taking a much different approach than the previous administration did to the enforcement of our sanctions," Brian Hook explained.
Referring to Iran's regional ambitions, Hook said that Iran's foreign policy does not respect the sovereignty or the autonomy of other states. "Since 1979 they have sought to undermine various states and they want to replace their national identity with a sectarian identity," Hook said, adding that this has created a lot of instability in the Middle East and contributed to a lot of violence and bloodshed.
Hook also made references to Iran's President Hassan Rouhani's recent visit to Iraq, saying, "When President Rouhani comes into Iraq promising a lot of benefits for the people, you should look to see how the Iranian people have been doing under President Rouhani. They have lost ground by every economic indicator." Hook stressed, " This is a regime that does not invest in its own people. So we shouldn't expect them to be supporting or helping the Iraqi people in any way. They are pawns in a larger foreign policy game."
He also made it clear that Iran is not likely to stand by promises made by Rouhani during his visit to Iraq. "I would point you to the way President Rouhani has delivered on his economic promises that he made in 2013. He has failed to deliver on those promises to the Iranian people.The Iraqis should not expect any different results for them," Hook said.
Meanwhile he warned Iraq to be mindful of U.S. sanctions. "We do expect them to comply with U.S. Sanctions. We think it is very much in Iraq's interest. Because the more we deny this regime revenues that it uses to destabilize Iraq and the Middle East, through funding the IRGC and its Qods Force, the better it is for the Iraqi people."
"We have a much different approach than President Rouhani takes to Iraq," said Hook, adding "What he says publicly, no matter what agreement he signs, we have to look at the underlying motives, which is to dominate Iraq. That is their intention. They are certainly trying to create this Shiite corridor of power across the Middle East."
The U.S. diplomat reiterated: "The United States very much wants a strong and sovereign Iraq. We want the Iraqi people to have freedom to make their own decision without interference by President Rouhani and Qassem Suleimani."
However, hook pointed out how Washington tried to make life easier for Iraq with respect to the implications of U.S. sanctions on Iran. "We have granted an exception for southern Iraq to import electricity. We did that to help the Iraqi people. We certainly didn't do it to benefit Iran. We have made an exception so that the money goes to a special account so that the regime is denied the hard currency that it uses to expand its foreign policy."
He further warned Iraqis against working with Iranian banks. "The United States designated many dozens of Iranian banks that are dirty banks. They are deeply corrupt banks that serve only the regime. So we have made it very clear to banks around the world that we will sanction any sanctionable activity. I think the Iraqi banks certainly know that there are banks that we have designated as such. These are the same bank that the SWIFT financial system also took out of its financial network because these banks are not in compliance with SWIFT standards."
Hook reminded that the Iranian financial system is deliberately dark and opaque. "It does not comply with those standards because the regime does not want people to know where the money goes. Because if people could see that they would see that the money is spent all around the Middle East, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Bahrain in order to achieve its ambitions to dominate the middle East," said Hook.