US sanctions Iranian drone procurement network

US sanctions Iranian drone procurement network
The Treasury, under Secretary Janet Yellen, imposed fresh sanctions Tuesday targeting Iran's ability to produce drones.  Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
The Treasury, under Secretary Janet Yellen, imposed fresh sanctions Tuesday targeting Iran’s ability to produce drones. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

March 21 (UPI) — The administration of President Joe Biden targeted Iran’s military drone procurement network Tuesday to tighten its financial vices on Tehran as it aids Russia’s war in Ukraine with the unmanned aerial vehicles.

Two Iranians, one Turk, three Tehran-based companies and a fourth in the Turkish city of Izmir were blacklisted by the US Treasury on Tuesday for procuring equipment, including engines from Europe, on behalf of the Middle Eastern country’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics to support its UAV and weapons program.

“Iran’s well-documented proliferation of UAVs and conventional weapons to its proxies continues to undermine both regional security and global stability,” Brian Nelson, under secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement. “The United States will continue to expose foreign procurement networks in any jurisdiction that support Iran’s military industrial complex.”

Neither the Treasury nor the State Department mentioned Russia in connection with Tuesday’s sanctions, but the punitive measure comes less than two weeks after both departments blacklisted a China-based network supplying Iran with parts for drones used by Russia in Ukraine.

The Biden administration assessed that Iran has been supplying the Kremlin with Shahed-131 and 136 armed drones, which have a range of 560 and 930 miles, respectively, since August.

Sanctions and the protracted conflict are believed to have strained Russia’s weapons stockpiles, forcing Moscow to turn to others for arms. Iran continues to deny the allegations against the country’s spiritual leader, Ali Khamenei, rejecting the claim as recently as Tuesday.

“We categorically deny any presence in the Ukrainian war,” he said in his Nowruz, or Iranian new year, speech before blaming the United States for being a participant in the conflict by mirroring Russian claims that NATO expansion is to blame for the violence. “Now it is America that is making the most of this war in terms of profit.”

Those sanctioned Tuesday were Murat Bukey, a 52-year-old Turk; 64-year-old Iranian Amanallah Paidar and 58-year-old Asghar Mahmoudi, who is also from Iran.

The hit entities were the Tehran-based companies the Defense Technology and Science Research Center, Farazan Industrial Engineering and Selin Technic along with the Turkish company Ozone Havacilik Ve Savunma Sanayi Ticaret Anonim Sirketi.

According to US officials, Bukey was accused of using his now-dormant Ozon Spor Ve Hobi Urunleri company to buy goods with defense uses, such as chemical and biological detection devices ,for Paidar, a commercial manager and procurement agent for the DTSRC.

Treasury officials said Bukey attempted to provide Europe-made engines that have UAV and surface-to-air missile applications to Paidar and Farazan Industrial Engineering.

The Biden administration said Mahmoudi, the owner of Selin Technic, was hit for supplying items, such as marine electronics, to Paidar and the DTSRC, as well as various equipment to UAV developers Qods Aviation Industries and Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company.

Selin Technic is also accused of being a front company to conduct trade with Paidar and other designated Iranian military entities. DTSRC is majority owned by the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, which oversees firms involved in UAV and ballistic missile development.

“Iran’s proliferation of weapons destabilizes the Middle East,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Tuesday. “The United States will continue to act to disrupt Iran’s proliferation of UAVs and work with allies and partners to counter Iran’s weapons proliferation.”

The sanctions freeze the assets of all those named and prohibit US citizens from doing business with them.

The move comes a day after both the European Union and Britain separately imposed fresh rounds of sanctions targeting Iran over committing human rights abuses against its own people.