US targets Iranian drone industry in latest round of sanctions

Sanctions target firms and individuals accused of buying drone parts on behalf of the Iranian government.

Iran drones
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) uses a drone for a ground forces military drill in Iran on October 19, 2022 [West Asia News Agency via Reuters]

The United States has announced its latest round of sanctions against Iranian drone and missile production, this time focusing on firms and individuals who allegedly procured equipment for Tehran’s drone programme.

In a statement on Tuesday, the US Department of the Treasury said the targeted “procurement network” operates on behalf of Iran’s Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL), which oversees firms involved in developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and ballistic missiles.

The latest sanctions came as US officials continued to accuse Iran of supplying Russia with drones for its invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, 2022. The European Union has also targeted Iran’s drone industry with sanctions.

“Iran’s well-documented proliferation of UAVs and conventional weapons to its proxies continues to undermine both regional security and global stability,” Brian Nelson, the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the US Treasury, said in a statement.

“The United States will continue to expose foreign procurement networks in any jurisdiction that supports Iran’s military industrial complex.”

Those named in Tuesday’s sanctions include the Iran-based Defense Technology and Science Research Center, its procurement firm Farazan Industrial Engineering Inc and two other firms, along with purchasing agents from the companies.

Among the equipment acquired by the network were “European-origin engines” for unmanned aerial vehicles, the statement said.

As a result of the sanctions, the targeted entities will be denied access to any US property or financial assets held in the country. US companies will also be prevented from doing business with those identified.

The sanctions are only the latest action by Washington to target Iran’s drone manufacturing.

Most recently, in early March, the US Treasury sanctioned a network of Chinese companies for procuring equipment that supported Iran’s drone programme.

In January, Washington also sanctioned seven people in leadership positions within Iranian companies that produce drones.

“Iran must cease its support for Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression in Ukraine, and we will continue to use every tool at our disposal to disrupt and delay these transfers and impose costs on actors engaged in this activity,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in the statement at the time.

The US has further accused Tehran of violating international law by failing to gain approval from the United Nations Security Council for drone sales.

In February, US defence officials released an analysis that sought to prove that Iranian drones were being used in Ukraine by Russia.

For its part, Iran has maintained a defiant stance on the issue, saying that international criticism of its drone programme is rooted in concerns that it would become a competitor in global arms sales.

Nevertheless, Tehran said it has not provided drones to Russia for use in Ukraine beyond “a “limited number” of the aerial explosives given to Moscow prior to the invasion.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies