10/16/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/16/2019 15:58
WASHINGTON - At a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on U.S.-Iran policy, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Wednesday pressed U.S. Department of State Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook on meetings he had with Rudy Giuliani to help remove Iranian sanctions to help Turkish banker Reza Zarrab. Murphy also pressed Hook on whether the administration's maximum pressure campaign toward Iran is successfully bringing them back to the negotiation table. Murphy made the point that the Europeans are actively engaged in helping their businesses work around U.S. sanctions against Iran, in light of the U.S. pulling out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
'We are very concerned that there is a shadow foreign policy operation that exists, being conducted by the president's personal lawyer, a representative of his political interests,' Murphy said. '[We're] also concerned about this particular case, because it seems as if it is evidence that the president's personal lawyer, his shadow Secretary of State, is working to undermine American sanctions against Iran-the very sanctions that you testified to us are crippling their economy,' Murphy said in regards to Rudy Giuliani's meeting with Hook to drop the sanctions case against Reza Zarrab.
On whether the administration's maximum pressure campaign is working, Murphy added: 'I know you have this list of actions that Europe has taken, but let's be honest: Europe is attempting to work around our sanctions. Europe is trying to create financial vehicles so that their businesses can continue to trade with Iran. They're talking about a new line of credit to prop up the Iranian economy. They still have diplomatic relations. It doesn't pass the laugh test to suggest that the European are working with us.'
A complete transcript of Murphy's exchange with Mr. Hook is below:
MURPHY: 'Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
'Mr. Hook, the reason that Senator Udall is asking you questions about Rudy Giuliani's requests on behalf of Reza Zarrab, I think is twofold. One, We are very concerned that there is a shadow foreign policy operation that exists, being conducted by the president's personal lawyer, a representative of his political interests.
'But we're also concerned about this particular case, because it seems as if it is evidence that the president's personal lawyer, his shadow Secretary of State, is working to undermine American sanctions against Iran-the very sanctions that you testified to us are crippling their economy. And so let me ask Senator Udall's question a different way: Have you spoken to Rudy Giuliani about U.S. sanctions policy towards his client, Reza Zarrab?'
HOOK: 'This meeting was a couple of years ago, I was in listening mode, as I said, Judge Mukasey asked for the meeting and listened to what they had to say. There was no action taken.'
MURPHY: 'But you did have a meeting with Rudy Giuliani, specific to his representation of a client who was seeking to get out of U.S. sanctions.'
HOOK: 'I had a meeting with Judge Mukasey, who was the lead and Judge Mukasey raised a consular issue with me, and there was no action taken.'
MURPHY: 'There is a report from three people familiar with a meeting between President Trump and Secretary Tillerson, who you were working for at the time as perhaps his closest advisor, in which President Trump asked for Secretary Tillerson's help to work to drop the case against Zarrab. Are you familiar with this meeting or the request that was made?'
HOOK: 'I was not familiar with the meeting.'
MUPRHY: 'Mr. Chairman, I think it's important to set the broader record straight here with respect to some of the things that Mr. Hook has said about our policy vis-à-vis Iran, and its connection to the recent developments in Syria.
'I appreciate that you do have a tough job to do and I don't imagine that you would have given counsel to the president to abandon our Kurdish partners in Syria. But it is simply not credible to say that we didn't have a counter Iran element to our Syria strategy. In fact, multiple individuals testified to that before this committee, and would still testify to that before the committee. It is not credible to say that abandoning the Kurds doesn't change the efficacy of our Iran strategy. Iran absolutely benefits, unequivocally, from a new alignment inside Syria in which the Kurds are forced to align themselves with Bashar al-Assad. It is also not credible; it just doesn't pass the straight face test, to try to convince us that Europe is helping us with a maximum pressure campaign on Iran. And to the extent that I have a question on these topics, I'll give you one to try to clarify the record.
'I know you have this list of actions that Europe has taken, but let's be honest: Europe is attempting to work around our sanctions. Europe is trying to create financial vehicles so that their businesses can continue to trade with Iran. They're talking about a new line of credit to prop up the Iranian economy. They still have diplomatic relations. It doesn't pass the laugh test to suggest that the European are working with us. And so I just want to put this question back to you again. Are you really trying to convince us that the Europeans are assisting in our maximum pressure campaign, when we know that they are actively engaged in trying to help their businesses work around U.S. sanctions?'
HOOK: 'So you said that Europe is working around our sanctions, and I think maybe just to be a little more precise. European companies is what we're talking about. European companies have made a clear choice to choose the United States market over the Iranian market. The EU does more trade with Kazakhstan than it does with Iran. It's not even in the top 30 of trading partners. And so we have seen nothing but full compliance by European companies on our sanctions regime. European governments are frustrated that Iran has lost some of the benefits under the Iran nuclear deal with our departure, but that is a secondary consequence. As it pertains to European companies, there's no daylight. There's more daylight between European companies and European governments than there is between the U.S. and -'
MURPHY: 'But I think what you were trying to, you were sending us a list of actions that European countries had taken. And I just I think it strains credibility to suggest that you have had success in convincing other nations especially those in Europe to rejoin the pressure campaign; the pressure campaign is unilateral. It is not as effective as it could be if you were successful.'
HOOK: 'So our unilateral sanctions have been much more effective than the multilateral sanctions that were in place prior to the deal. Indisputable on that. The second thing is so when you say it is true, and maybe this is just a matter of sort of making distinctions. There is our pressure campaign and then there is Europe, working to confront and address Iranian threats to peace and security. And sometimes there's overlap and sometimes they separate but when I look at this list of European actions, it is dozens of actions that I mean everything from, as I said these statements. Austria, Belgium, France and Germany exposed an Iranian plot to bomb an oppositionist rally in Paris and they arrested several Iranian operatives. The Netherlands expelled two Iranian diplomats in connection with an assassination. The French Foreign Minister condemned Iran's attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions in Iraq. Serbia revoked visa free travel for Iranian citizens. Belgium extradited - I mean this is, I would welcome you reading this. Europe has done a lot in the time that we have left the deal to try to raise the cost of Iranian aggression. They have not joined our maximum pressure campaign, but they have adopted our position that we need a new deal and Boris Johnson said that the Iran nuclear deal is a bad deal with many, many people -'
MURPHY: 'I would just say, listen the proof is in the pudding. Iran is not at the negotiating table, you have a year left on your term, their malevolent activity in the region is worse than ever before. If you had evidence that all of these actions were bringing them to the table, we might be in a different conversation. But there is absolutely no evidence that this has actually gotten us to a point where you can effectuate a negotiated settlement, and you only have 12 months left on the term. We're just not going to get the agreement that you have sought with the time that you have left and without European partners. I know I'm way over my time. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.'