U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook has said the United States is denying Tehran up to $50 billion in oil revenue exports as a result of sanctions imposed on Iran.
Since the imposition of U.S. sanctions on Iran in 2018, daily oil exports have dropped from more than two million barrels a day to around 300,000.
Speaking with Al Arabiya during his visit to Bahrain June 26 Hook added that Iran's proxies in the region, including the Lebanese Hezbollah and Hamas in the Palestinian territories, "are experiencing a financial strain they never experienced before" as pressure on Iran limited its capability to fund terror in the Middle East.
Explaining some of Iran's destructive activities in the region, Hook said Iran is willing to use the Houthis in Yemen in the same way it has exploited Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“Iran regularly threatens to close the Strait of Hormuz,” he said. “Imagine if they were able to become a power broker in Yemen; they would threaten to close the Bab al-Mandeb," adding that, as Iran's proxy, the Houthis have posed the biggest obstacle to the cause of peace in Yemen and, “We have to deny them this capability."
Hook pointed out that Iran provides 75 percent of Hezbollah’s budget every year, some $700 million, and as a result, "the average Lebanese Hezbollah fighter makes more than the average Iranian." However, Hook added that the United States has been able to reduce the funds Iran sends to its terrorist proxies.
Hook, who was attending the Peace to Prosperity workshop, also said if the United States remained in the nuclear deal with Iran, eventually Iran would be stronger and more aggressive when restrictions on its nuclear activities are lifted based on the same agreement.
Hook said that based on JCPOA "Iran would probably be doing exactly what they’re doing today down the road, but they’d be stronger" when restrictions are lifted.
Hook described the Iranian government as a “corrupt religious mafia that robs its own people blind in order to fund a violent ideology.”
Earlier this week, U.S. President Donald Trump announced a new set of hard-hitting sanctions against Iranian officials including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who according to a 2013 Reuters report controls a financial empire worth around $95 billion – a sum exceeding the value of his oil-rich nation’s current annual petroleum exports.
“The supreme leader has been able to enrich himself at the expense of the Iranian people,” Hook said. “He has many billions of dollars through his financial empire. It’s a slush fund, a hedge fund.”
“This is a religious leader who has his own hedge fund, and that should tell you something about the corruption of this regime, its hypocrisy: that while his own people are struggling, he’s running a hedge fund,” Hook added.
Khamenei's headquarters controls many economic enterprises but it is not clear exactly what the U.S. diplomat was referring to when he mentioned a "hedge fund".
The Peace to Prosperity workshop in Bahrain where Hook made the remarks is an international forum attended by U.S. and international officials and businessmen with the objective of boosting Palestinian and Arab economies and constructing a $5 billion transportation corridor to connect the West Bank and Gaza.