Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US envoy Brian Hook.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
Iran’s cyber unit has lost substantial funding – and funding for its Quds force’s, which leads its sponsorship of global terrorism, has been cut 17%, US State Department Iran czar Brian Hook said on Thursday.
Although figures have been coming in about the Islamic republic’s weakened economy, Hook provided some of the first very specific impacts that the US pressure campaign has had on Tehran’s military capabilities.
Hook gave a telephone briefing to reporters ahead of an emergency summit of Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia on Thursday to discuss drone strikes on its oil installations and attacks on four oil tankers near the United Arab Emirates earlier this month.
Tehran has denied involvement in those attacks, but US National Security Adviser John Bolton has pointed the finger at Iran.
Hook was more circumspect about Iran’s involvement in the attacks, but predicted that a fuller disclosure of an investigation of the attacks would be publicly released soon.
His comments about losses of Iran’s aggressive capabilities because of the US maximum pressure campaign dovetailed with a new message that US officials have been emphasizing.
As it has become clear that the pressure campaign will not get Tehran to shift its policies in the direction that Washington wants in the near future, US officials have started to emphasize the more limited goal of weakening Iran.
“Our maximum pressure campaign is working by nearly every measure. The Iranian regime and its proxies are weaker today than they were two years ago,” said Hook.
Besides discussing reduced Iranian military capabilities, he listed off reduced Iranian support for Hezbollah, Hamas, Iranian militias in Syria and for the Assad regime itself, to help show that weakening Tehran has weakened its proxies as well.
Furthermore, he said that the US is “working with other countries which issue flags” to the Islamic republic’s naval vessels to strip “Iranian tankers of the maritime flags they need to sail.” He said 80 Iranian tankers have lost their flags to date.
Finally, he said that the EU countries’ special purpose vehicle – INSTEX, a mechanism designed to circumvent US sanctions on Iran – has been nearly useless to date.
Hook said that corporations were so uninterested in risking sanctions from the US, that it was not even getting clarification questions from them about trying to walk the fine line between selling Iran humanitarian products that do not violate the sanctions.
Regarding the use of force, Hook said that the US would use military force if its interests were assaulted by Iran.
At the same time, he said that America’s repositioning of military assets into the region have had the “desired deterrent effect” on the Islamic republic.
He added that earlier intelligence that Iran was ready to “imminently” carry out an attack against the US or its interests has been addressed by moving US forces.
Addressing whether Washington would allow powers like China and India to still import small amounts of Iranian oil, the US Iran czar reiterated administration policy that, “there will be no more oil waivers granted.”
The US is pursuing a “maximum pressure campaign” of sanctions against Iran to force it back to the negotiating table for a new nuclear deal, which would seek to fill loopholes in the 2015 nuclear deal that was signed by Obama administration.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>