The Spokesman of Iran's Armed Forces on Tuesday said Iran's Police and the Revolutionary Guard's militia arm (Basij) have arrested 3,600 individuals for "spreading rumors about coronavirus".
Radio Farda has interviewed the U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook about these arrests and also about the administration's plan to have the U.S. arms embargo remain in place after its expiration in October.
Radio Farda: What is your reaction to Iran's announcement of the arrest of almost four thousand people for spreading "coronavirus rumors"?
Brian Hook: Iran has a long history of suppressing information. It's a Marxist, theocratic, corrupt mafia that runs the country during this entire Corona crisis in the country. The regime has tried to silence people because they don't want the world to know or their own people just how bad the pandemic is in their country. There have already been 6,000 people who've died. They have almost 100,000 confirmed cases, which relative to the Middle East is quite high.
Radio Farda: What procedures does the United States want to use to keep the UN arms embargo in place past its expiration in October?
Under the Iran nuclear deal, one of the big mistakes was to agree that in year five of the deal, the arms embargo on the world's leading sponsor of terrorism expires. And that's going to happen on October 18. So we're about six months away from this happening. Secretary Pompeo and I have spoken about the need to renew the arms embargo. And we have drafted a Security Council resolution. Procedurally it's quite easy to renew the arms embargo. When I was at the UN Security Council, I negotiated the arms embargo and then it was lifted under the Iran nuclear deal in year five, so it's a drafting matter, it's quite simple. You then of course, need to avoid any vetoes and you have to have the sufficient number of votes to get it passed. So we're engaging in diplomacy to try to get agreement with the other four permanent members of the Council on how we can renew the arms embargo.
Radio Farda: President Trump said this week that he has instructed the U.S. Navy to destroy Iranian boats harassing U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf. Are there any concerns that this could trigger a war?
Brian Hook: Well, not sure. I would look at it that way. We were in international waters. And the Iranian regime has a military doctrine of desensitizing the United States from harassment. And I don't know if you saw the videos, but the Iranian swift boats that the IRGC operates exceeded the rules of maritime safety in international waters. The Iranian regime would like to desensitize us so that after doing it a number of times, they could then get within sufficient range to actually kill American soldiers. We're not gonna let that happen. We're going to enforce the rules of the road in international waters. The regime violates them in the Strait of Hormuz in the Bab-el-Mandeb and near Kuwait, which is where the incident took place. And as a matter of self defense, and protecting the lives of Americans, President Trump said that if they do it again the boats will be destroyed.
Radio Farda: U.S. Secretary of State has condemned recently the Mahan Air's delivery of supplies to Venezuela. This has cast doubt on the content of this delivery. Iran has said that it delivered spare parts for Venezuela's petrochemical industry. Do you believe that the content of the delivery was different than what Iran declared?
Brian Hook: Well, Iran regularly claims that Mahan Air is used for peaceful purposes. But there's a reason why Germany and France and a number of countries like the UK, I believe, have all banned Mahan Air landing rights in their country. Because Mahan air is a terrorist airline. It's a dual use airline. The regime uses Mahan air to move commercial passengers and they use it to move terrorists and weapons. So a number of countries around the world have denied rights, landing rights to Mahan Air to protect their the aviation industry in their own country. And we have urged countries we've been working with diplomatically to deny overflight rights to Mahan Air if they're going to be going back and forth. You've got one terrorist regime helping another terrorist regime. And whenever you see that happening, you have to assume the worst. The regime regularly claims things that are false, including that they were helping Venezuela's oil industry. But I think we can probably safely assume it's not limited to that.