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US imposes new sanctions on support network for Iran’s missile, drone programs

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The U.S. Treasury Department on October 18 announced new sanctions on 11 individuals, eight entities, and one vessel that the United States says have enabled Iran’s “destabilizing ballistic missile and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programs.”

The individuals, entities, and the vessel designated by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) are based in Iran, Hong Kong, China, and Venezuela, the department said in a news release.

“The persons designated today have materially supported Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL), or their subordinates in the production and proliferation of missiles and UAVs,” the Treasury Department said.

Iran’s “reckless choice to continue its proliferation of destructive UAVs and other weapons prolongs numerous conflicts in regions around the world,” Treasury Undersecretary Brian E. Nelson added in the news release.

The sanctions, which freeze any assets held in U.S. jurisdiction and bar people in the U.S. from dealing with them, were a sign that Iran’s missile program will remain restricted after the expiration of UN Security Council sanctions on October 18.

The expiration of the sanctions falls under a sunset clause of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which gave Tehran relief from sanctions in exchange for limiting its nuclear program. Former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned that deal in 2018 and restored U.S. on Iran sanctions. Efforts to revive it have failed.

Russia said on October 17 that after expiration of the sanctions imposed in the nuclear pact the transfers of missile technology to Iran would no longer needed Security Council approval. But Russia did not say whether it planned to support Tehran’s missile development.

In light of the expiry of the UN’s restrictions on Iran’s missile-related activities, the State Department on October 18 published a joint statement related to countering Iranian missile-related activities.

The 45 countries that signed the statement have committed to countering Iranian missile-related activities through the so-called Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a program designed to prevent shipments of weapons of mass destruction.

The countries that endorsed the PSI said they reaffirmed their commitment “to take all necessary measures to prevent the supply, sale, or transfer of ballistic missile-related items, materials, equipment, goods, and technology, to protect peace and stability in the region.”

The statement said the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems continues to pose a significant threat to international security.

“In this environment, Iran’s missile program remains one of the greatest challenges to international nonproliferation efforts,” it said.

The U.S. effort to limit Iran’s missile and drone programs comes amid renewed American criticism of Tehran for backing Hamas, which on October 7 carried out a rampage against communities in southern Israel in which at least 1,300 people died.

U.S. officials have said they do not have evidence tying Iran to ordering or planning the attacks but have said Tehran is complicit because of its long-term support for Hamas.