The Islamic Republic has taken this fateful path once before already. It was 2008 and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was Iran's incumbent president. He too had to leave the sale of oil to dubious intermediaries in order to circumvent international embargos. His confidants took over the lucrative oil business. The illegal trade in black gold flourished for eight years. The head of the National Bank fled to Canada with billions, another dazzling figure – once the driver of an important official – became a multimillionaire overnight and is currently standing trial. The latter is accused of embezzling billions of dollars from the sale of oil.
But despite or precisely because of the black market and the trafficking, Ahmadinejad achieved an unprecedented record. In the eight years of his presidency, he sold $800 billion worth of oil – more than anything Iran had achieved since oil was discovered there.
Trump's got it all figured out
But whether the wily "black marketeers" will be equally successful this time is doubtful. The Trump administration has after all taken precautions. In mid-August, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appointed Brian Hook, an experienced policy advisor, as Special Representative for Iran. Hook was a close advisor to former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, has worked with national security advisor John Bolton and is known for his firm stance against Iran.
Now Hook is leading an action group charged with the strict monitoring of Iranian purchases and sales worldwide. The top priority is obviously to stop sales of Iranian oil, by whatever means. "Hook's Iran Action Group will co-ordinate the pressure on Iran; it will be responsible for steering, reviewing and co-ordinating all aspects of the Foreign Ministry's activities in Iran and will report directly to me," Pompeo said at the groupʹs launch.
Apparently we are experiencing a turning point in U.S. foreign policy towards Iran. At the beginning of October, the American State Department published a long text by Pompeo bearing the title "Confronting Iran: The Trump administration's strategy".