March 12, 2019
U.S. Special Representative Brian Hook questioned President Hassan Rouhani’s “motives” regarding Iraq, while the Iranian leader was visiting the neighboring country.
In an interview with Alhurrha TV, Hook on March 11 said that when the Rouhani’s government does “prioritize his own people so why on earth he would prioritize the welfare of the Iraqi people”.
Rouhani arrived in Baghdad on his first official visit on Monday, March 11 with a high-level delegation and immediately began signing trade and economic agreements.
Iraq is Iran’s second biggest trade partner but economic relations between the two countries have come under pressure as a result of U.S. sanctions, which can stop Iraqi purchases of Iranian fossil fuels, electricity and their banking ties.
Questioning Rouhani’s motives, Hook said that Iran wants to secure a “military highway” through Iraq to the Western parts of the Middle East “that the Revolutionary Guard Corps can use to ferry missiles, weapons and fighters across the Middle East”.
“President Rouhani coming to Iraq is not in the interest of the Iraqi people”, Hook said, adding that the U.S. will sanction “sanctionable activities” anywhere in the world. Currently, the U.S. has given Iraq a six-month waiver to continue buying energy form Iran.
Hook also underlined the importance of Iraqi independence from Iran and said that the United States is helping Baghdad to become independent in its electricity needs.
On Iran’s foreign policy Hook added, “A peaceful Iran would mean a much more peaceful Middle East. Unfortunately, Iran’s foreign policy is revolutionary”. Furthermore, Hook said that most Iraqis cling to their national identity while Iran wants to change that and replace it with a Shiite identity. “This has been the core of their policy, to create sectarian divisions”, the U.S. diplomat emphasized.
Asked what kind of an impact the U.S. sanctions have on Iran, Hook pointed out that “well over a million barrels” of crude oil have been shaved off Iran’s exports and that has limited the budget for its military, devalued its currency, increased inflation and led to capital flight.
Responding to a question about the near future of the Iranian regime, Hook said, “They can either start behaving like a normal nation or they can watch their economy crumble. The United States government is committed to driving up the cost of Iran’s historic malign behavior across the Middle East”.
Hook added that the sanctions on Iran are the biggest in U.S. history and “they are just starting”.
Dismissing Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as “fairly powerless foreign minister” Hook said that “true foreign minister of Iran is Qassem Soleimani”, the commander of the extraterritorial Qods force.