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program “New US Sanctions: Clamping Down on Iran’s Drone Ambitions

The U.S. Department of the Treasury has announced new economic sanctions on a network of companies involved in Iran’s drone production activities. The sanctions, which went into effect on August 5, 2020, are intended to restrict the sale and transfer of equipment for the development of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, by Tehran. The network, which has links to entities within Iran’s defense industry, is thought to have facilitated the sale of drones, spare parts, and technical advice between foreign countries and entities within Iran. The companies sanctioned are based in the UAE, Iran, Turkey, and the United Kingdom and their activities have been linked to Iran’s drone production activities since late 2019. The newly imposed sanctions are part of the Trump Administration’s hardline stance on Iran and its continued effort to curb the country’s ability to finance activities related to its nuclear program. This latest round of sanctions follows the U.S.’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and an earlier set of sanctions placed on three Iranian firms for their alleged role in the country’s nuclear activities. Drone technology has become increasingly important in Iran’s defense capabilities, with the country having built a fleet of some 30 different UAVs over the past two decades. This includes the home-built Shahed-129, a large and advanced strike drone that has been used in military operations in Syria and Iraq. These latest sanctions are designed to exploit the weaknesses of Iran’s drone manufacturing sector, hobbling the development of its UAV programs and potentially reducing its capability on the regional battlefield. By restricting the practicability of Iran’s efforts to construct its own drone technology, it is hoped that the move will help degrade Tehran’s ability to proliferate and export weapons of mass destruction or destabilizing technologies. The Trump Administration’s actions against the Iranian drone network come at a time when tensions between Washington and Tehran are at an all-time high. The potential for further escalation remains high, and it is likely that more sanctions on Iran’s military and nuclear development activities are due in the near future.