Brian Hook, US State Department’s special Representative for Iran, meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jerusalem, November 15, 2018 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

The US has warned European firms not to maintain any links with Iran, amid comprehensive American sanctions seeking to break Tehran’s economy.

The Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, said Thursday, “European banks and European companies know that we will vigorously enforce sanctions against this brutal and violent regime.”

Full American restrictions, notably on the energy and financial sectors, took effect on November 5. The Trump Administration is hoping to turn Iranians against the regime by reducing oil exports and further hampering production, investment, and trade.

Hook chided the European Union over its Special Purpose Vehicle, seeking to provide a financial channel which does not have any involvement with the US dollar. He said that it was “no surprise” that the arrangement was struggling, given fears of American punishment of any company or bank continuing to interact with the Islamic Republic: “Any major European company will always choose the American market over the Iranian market.”

The EU has said that it will provide support for small- and medium-sized enterprises, but has not been able to establish guarantees against US sanctions — which could be billions of dollars in fines — against any large company.

As a result, many EU firms suspended business with Tehran before the imposition of the comprehensive sanctions. They include French energy giant Total, French auto manufacturers Peugeot and Renault, Germany’s Siemens and Deutsche Bahn, the world’s largest shipper Maersk, and French aircraft manufacturer Airbus.

Diplomats told Reuters that the EU wanted to have the SPV in place by this month and operational next year; however, no country has offered to host it.

Hook put out a video on Twitter, declaring human rights abuses by the regime against the Iranian people and their “great and noble tradition”.

Meeting Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu in Israel on Thursday, Hook said:

Now that we have reimposed our sanctions we’re in a position to really go after all of the revenue streams that Iran uses to fund Hamas and Hezbollah, its missile proliferation, all of the threats to peace and security that Iran presents. You are a fantastic and committed partner in this endeavor, and we’re very grateful for all of the support you give.

Speaking in Italy, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi hit back, “The dollar has become a weapon for the United States to force its illegitimate demands upon its European partners, practically challenging their national sovereignty.”

Iran Currency Rebounds

Despite the US sanctions, the Iranian rial continues to recover from its historic fall.

The rial officially traded at 125,500:1 v. the US dollar at the end of Thursday, a gain of almost 15% this week.

Iranian media indicated the rally was due to Central Bank intervention, with the infusion of hard currencies into the market.

The rial, already at a historic low of 45,000:1 in January, fell about 75% to almost 200,000:1 this autumn before a series of Government steps checked the slide.

The Supreme Leader has authorized special Revolutionary Courts for “economic crimes”, with public trials and impose sentences which cannot be appealed. Earlier this week, two speculators in gold coins were executed.

Iran Daily, Nov 15: Tehran Hangs “Sultan of Coins”