On Wednesday, the United States made efforts to restrict Iran’s missile and drone initiatives by implementing fresh sanctions, offering guidance to companies on preventing the sale of sensitive technology to Iran, and revisiting a two-decade-old program designed to prevent the shipment of weapons of mass destruction.
Washington announced the steps as UN sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program expired under the defunct 2015 Iran nuclear deal and amid renewed Western criticism of Iran for backing Hamas, which conducted a brutal Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
US officials say they do not have evidence tying Iran to the cross-border rampage against communities in southern Israel in which at least 1,300 people died, mostly civilians, but fault Tehran for its long-standing support of Gaza-based Hamas.
Washington and its allies fear the expiration of the UN sanctions on Wednesday may make it easier for Iran to develop and export missile and drone technology, including to Russia, which has used Iranian drones in its war against Ukraine.
Iran has denied sending Russia drones for use in Ukraine.
In its most tangible action, the US Treasury said it imposed sanctions on 11 individuals, eight entities and one vessel based in Iran, Hong Kong, China and Venezuela that enable Iran’s “destabilizing” ballistic missile and drone programs.
The US government also issued an “Iran ballistic missile procurement advisory” to industry laying out what it said were the deceptive practices that Iran uses to obtain parts for its ballistic missile program from around the world.
In a joint statement, more than 45 states, including the US and close allies in Europe and Asia, committed to uphold the 2003 Proliferation Security Initiative designed to stop shipments related to weapons of mass destruction.
The steps aim to blunt the impact of the expiration of UN sanctions under a “sunset” clause of the defunct 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which gave Tehran relief from American, European Union and UN sanctions in exchange for limiting its nuclear program.
Former US President Donald Trump abandoned that deal in 2018 and restored US sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to gradually violate the pact’s nuclear restrictions. US President Biden’s efforts to restore the pact have failed.
“The sanctions relief “was based on the assumption that Iran would take the necessary steps toward restoring confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program. This has not happened,” the joint statement said.
“We see the horrific impact of Iran’s provision of missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to designated terrorist organizations and militant proxies that directly threaten the security of Israel and our Gulf partners,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a separate statement.
“We see the destructive result of Iran’s transfer of lethal UAVs to Russia to target critical civilian infrastructure and kill civilians in Ukraine,” he added, saying Washington would use “every tool at our disposal” to counter Iran’s development, procurement and proliferation of missiles and drones.