U.S. Slaps New Sanctions on Iran's Drone Program

The move comes after Iran's top nuclear negotiator announced that the nuke talks with six major powers would resume by the end of November

Jonathan Lis
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An Iranian unmanned drone.
An Iranian unmanned drone.Credit: AP
Jonathan Lis

The United States has issued a fresh round of Iran-related sanctions tied to an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps drone program that it said threatened regional stability, the Treasury Department said on Friday.

U.S. officials, in a statement, said Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps has been providing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or drones for use by Iran-backed groups, including Lebanese group Hezbollah, and in crisis-hit Ethiopia.

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This comes after Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani tweeted on Wednesday that the talks with six major powers will resume by end of November.

The talks have been on hold since the election of Iran's hardline President Ebrahim Raisi in June, who is expected to take a tough approach if the talks resume in Vienna.

"Iran's proliferation of UAVs across the region threatens international peace and stability. Iran and its proxy militants have used UAVs to attack U.S. forces, our partners, and international shipping," Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said. "Treasury will continue to hold Iran accountable for its irresponsible and violent acts."

The Mercer Street oil tanker, in August.Credit: Karim Sahib/AFP

The sanctions announced Friday are targeting four people, including Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Brigadier General Saeed Aghajani, who the United States says oversees the drone operations of the Aerospace Force, IRGC Brigadier General Abdollah Mehrabi, Mohammad Ebrahim Zargar Tehrani, and Yousef Aboutalebi.

The Treasury Department's actions also target two companies – Kimia Part Sivan Co. and Oje Parvaz Mado Nafar Co. that it said procured components for the program and provided other assistance.

Aghajani was behind the attack against the oil tanker Mercer Street off the coast of Oman in July, which killed a British citizen and a Romanian citizen.

Photo released by the official website of the Iranian Army shows missilesCredit: Iranian Army/AP

Kimia Part Sivan Company has worked with Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps to improve their drone program, and Tehrani helped Kimia to import the components needed for building the drones from firms outside Iran.

Mehrabi is the owner of Oje Parvaz Mado Nafar Company and Aboutalebi is its managing director.

The sanctions will block access to property subject to U.S. jurisdiction of the persons designated, while U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with the designated persons or their blocked property, the Treasury said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement, "the United States will use all available tools, including sanctions, to prevent, deter, and dismantle the procurement networks that supply UAV-related material and technology to Iran, as well as the Iranian entities that engage in such proliferation." 

Israel has been investing efforts into raising international awareness regarding Iran's fast-growing drone program. Defense Minister Benny Gantz has revealed to foreign ambassadors the location of the drone base in Iran as well as the name of the man in charge of the Revolutionary Guard’s drone force. 

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