US Now Cribbing Iran Policy From Nigerian Email Scammers

The Financial Times details a US government Iran policy that's been reduced to top officials desperately sending emails which open like phishing scams:

Four days before the US imposed sanctions on an Iranian tanker suspected of shipping oil to Syria, the vessel’s Indian captain received an unusual email from the top Iran official at the Department of State.

“This is Brian Hook . . . I work for secretary of state Mike Pompeo and serve as the US Representative for Iran,” Mr Hook wrote to Akhilesh Kumar on August 26, according to several emails seen by the Financial Times. “I am writing with good news.”

The “good news” was that the Trump administration was offering Mr Kumar several million dollars to pilot the ship — until recently known as the Grace 1 — to a country that would impound the vessel on behalf of the US. To make sure Mr Kumar did not mistake the email for a scam, it included an official state department phone number.

Yes, the US is literally bribing ship captains to act as pirates on Washington's behalf with an email now being widely mocked online as sounding like a classic 'Nigerian prince' email scam. The Economist's Gregg Carlstrom aptly snarked of the unprecedented and unorthodox method: "it's like Brian Hook is cribbing Iran policy from Nigerian email scammers."

The US special representative for Iran, Brian Hook. Image source: EPA/The Guardian

“I am writing with good news,” opened the message from the administration's top Iran envoy. The message was said to include a State Department hotline the captain could call in order to verify the dubious looking email's authenticity. 

Given the captain of the Iran-flagged Adrian Dayra didn't respond to the first "good news" email offering immense wealth and future comfort and prosperity, Hook persisted in a second round message:

“With this money you can have any life you wish and be well-off in old age,” Mr Hook wrote in a second email to Mr Kumar that also included a warning. “If you choose not to take this easy path, life will be much harder for you.”

Apparently a series of similar emails and messages have been sent to various ship captains, urging and intimidating them into helping disrupt all Iran-linked oil shipping networks. 

The State Department on Wednesday announced it is now offering up to $15 million for anyone with information on illicit Iranian and Hezbollah oil deals or shipping. 


"There will be more sanctions coming," US special envoy for Iran Brian Hook told reporters at the State Department. "We can't make it any more clear that we are committed to this campaign of maximum pressure."

Perhaps more Nigerian prince "good news" sounding email farce's will do the trick.