On September 8, the United States sanctioned four Iranian companies and a defense contractor for providing drones to Russia for use in Ukraine. The move reflects a tightening of the sanctions noose around countries facilitating Vladimir Putin’s war machine. “The Russian military is suffering from major supply shortages in Ukraine, in part because of sanctions and export controls, forcing Russia to turn to unreliable countries like Iran for supplies and equipment,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. “The United States will hold those who support Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine to account, including by continuing to sanction Iranian or other entities that provide lethal aid to Russia.”
- Related Material: Iran’s Drone Fleet
On July 11, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan revealed that Iran was preparing to provide Russia with “up to several hundred” drones. Russian officials visited Iran’s Kashan Airfield on June 8 and July 5 to inspect the Shahed-191 and Shahed-129 drones. Both are capable of launching precision-guided missiles at ground targets and electronic warfare.
On August 19, Russian cargo planes flew out of Iran with scores of drones. But Russian forces then ran into technical problems while testing them, according to U.S. officials.
Spotted Iran striker UAVs in Kupyansk region. Presumably used by Russian forces. pic.twitter.com/xBVtuifvVS— Максим (@kms_d4k) September 13, 2022
Ukrainian military officials were skeptical that Iranian drones would significantly improve Russia’s capabilities on the battlefield. “Controlling this drone is not easy,” Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat said on September 5. “The crews must undergo flight practice, combat coordination, and learn how to strike ground targets.” On September 13, Ukrainian forces reportedly downed what appeared to be an Iranian Shahed-136 suicide drone for the first time.
Ukraine also has imported drones, including the large Turkish-made Bayraktar, which has disabled or destroyed many Russian tanks with missiles. Ukraine has also deployed small U.S.-made Switchblade kamikaze drones.
Iran’s drone program dates back to the 1980-1988 war with Iraq. Iran has increasingly turned to drones and ballistic missiles as cheaper alternatives to manned combat aircraft.
It has developed increasing advanced drones, including larger models that can carry out combat as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Since 2004, Iran has also provided drone technology to proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, and Gaza. The following are statements from the State and Treasury Departments on the new U.S. sanctions.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken
The United States is designating a person involved in the shipment of Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Russia for its war against Ukraine, as well as four other persons involved in Iranian UAV activities, including the production of Shahed-series UAVs and related components for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The Russian military is suffering from major supply shortages in Ukraine, in part because of sanctions and export controls, forcing Russia to turn to unreliable countries like Iran for supplies and equipment. The United States will hold those who support Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine to account, including by continuing to sanction Iranian or other entities that provide lethal aid to Russia.
We will also 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. We also warn any third country that seeks to purchase these drones from Iran that doing so implicates multiple U.S. sanction authorities.
Today’s action is being taken pursuant to weapons of mass destruction proliferation-related Executive Order (E.O.) 13382 as well as Russia-related E.O. 14024.
For more information on today’s action, please see the Department of the Treasury’s press release.
Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is designating an air transportation service provider for its involvement in the shipment of Iranian Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to Russia for its war against Ukraine. Additionally, OFAC is designating three companies and one individual involved in the research, development, production, and procurement of Iranian UAVs and UAV components, including the Shahed series of drones, for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its Aerospace Force (IRGC ASF) and Navy.
“Russia is making increasingly desperate choices to continue its unprovoked war against Ukraine, particularly in the face of our unprecedented sanctions and export controls,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian E. Nelson. “The United States is committed to strictly enforcing our sanctions against both Russia and Iran and holding accountable Iran and those supporting Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. We will also not hesitate to target producers and procurers who contribute to Iran and its IRGC’s UAV program, further demonstrating our resolve to continue going after terrorist proxies that destabilize the Middle East. Non-Iranian, non-Russian entities should also exercise great caution to avoid supporting either the development of Iranian UAVs or their transfer, or sale of any military equipment to Russia for use against Ukraine.”
Today’s action is being taken pursuant to the weapons of mass destruction nonproliferation authority, Executive Order (E.O.) 13382, as well as E.O. 14024, “Blocking Property With Respect To Specified Harmful Foreign Activities of the Government of the Russian Federation.” The action also follows OFAC’s October 2021 designation of the commander of the IRGC ASF UAV Command and a network of companies and individuals that provided critical support to IRGC UAV programs and those of its expeditionary unit, the IRGC Qods Force (IRGC-QF). The IRGC was designated pursuant to E.O. 13382 in 2007 for its role in Iran’s ballistic missile program.
SHIPMENT OF IRANIAN UAVS TO RUSSIA
Tehran-based Safiran Airport Services (Safiran) has coordinated Russian military flights between Iran and Russia, including those associated with transporting Iranian UAVs, personnel, and related equipment from Iran to Russia. Information also indicates that after assembly and testing, the Russian Aerospace Forces intend to deploy Iranian UAVs alongside Russian UAVs in their war against Ukraine.
Safiran is being designated pursuant to E.O. 14024 for being owned or controlled by, or for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the Government of the Russia Federation.
Paravar Pars Company, closely associated with IRGC-controlled Imam Hossein University, has produced UAVs for the IRGC ASF and has tested UAVs for the IRGC Navy. In particular, Paravar Pars Company was involved in the research, development, and production of the Iranian Shahed-171 UAV developed by the IRGC ASF. In the past, the IRGC ASF distributed U.S. and Israeli-made UAVs to Paravar Pars Company, which were ultimately used to reverse engineer and reproduce indigenously made UAV models.
Paravar Pars Company is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13382 for having provided or attempted to provide financial, material, technological, or other support for, or goods or services in support of, the IRGC ASF.
Design and Manufacturing of Aircraft Engines (DAMA) is an Iranian company that was involved in the research, development, and production of the Iranian Shahed-171 UAV program, which is owned by the IRGC ASF. DAMA is a front company that carried out covert procurement activities for Iran’s Aircraft Manufacturing Industries (HESA), an entity affiliated with Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL). Some of DAMA’s customers included the IRGC and the Aerospace Industries Organization. DAMA has been involved in acquiring equipment to modify UAV components that would eventually be indigenously produced by the IRGC and implemented into IRGC UAVs. DAMA has also been involved in the manufacture and procurement of equipment for planned use in jet engines used by the IRGC.
Baharestan Kish Company has overseen various defense-related projects, which included the manufacturing of UAVs. As of 2021, the company was working on Shahed UAV components. Rehmatollah Heidari, Baharestan Kish Company’s managing director and a member of its board of directors, has been involved with various aspects of the company’s operation to include securing facilities for the company.
DAMA and Baharestan Kish Company are being designated pursuant to E.O. 13382 for having provided or attempted to provide financial, material, technological, or other support for, or goods or services in support of, the IRGC.
Rehmatollah Heidari is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13382 for acting or purporting to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Baharestan Kish Company.
The IRGC in its entirety, including the IRGC ASF and Navy, was designated pursuant to E.O. 13382 on February 12, 2013. HESA was designated pursuant E.O. 13382 on September 17, 2008. MODAFL was designated pursuant to E.O. 13382 in 2007 and pursuant to E.O. 13224 on March 26, 2019. The Aerospace Industries Organization was designated pursuant to E.O. 13382 on June 28, 2005.
As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the individuals and entities that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within the United States (including transactions transiting the United States) that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.
In addition, persons that engage in certain transactions with the individuals or entities designated today may themselves be exposed to designation. Furthermore, any foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction or provides significant financial services for any of the individuals or entities designated today could be subject to U.S. correspondent or payable-through account sanctions.
The power and integrity of OFAC sanctions derive not only from its ability to designate and add persons to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List), but also from its willingness to remove persons from the SDN List consistent with the law. The ultimate goal of sanctions is not to punish, but to bring about a positive change in behavior. For information concerning the process for seeking removal from an OFAC list, including the SDN List, please refer to OFAC’s Frequently Asked Question 897.