US has accused Iran weapons manufacturers of complicity in Russia’s war in Ukraine, in violation of international law.
The United States has announced that it is sanctioning Iranian industries that produce ballistic missiles and drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which the US says have been used to facilitate Russia’s war in Ukraine.
In a news release on Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the sanctions would target seven people in leadership positions at Qods Aviation Industries — an Iranian UAV manufacturer — and Iran’s Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO), which manages the country’s ballistic missile programme.
“Iran has now become Russia’s top military backer,” Blinken said in the statement. “Iran must cease its support for Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression in Ukraine, and we will continue to use every tool at our disposal to disrupt and delay these transfers and impose costs on actors engaged in this activity.”
Iran is fueling Russia’s war in Ukraine with its provision of UAV technology. Today, the United States sanctioned seven people involved in Iran’s UAV and ballistic missile programs – programs Moscow is using to target Ukraine’s critical infrastructure.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) January 6, 2023
Relations between the US and Iran, already tense, have become increasingly strained as Iran enhances its military ties with Russia. The US has stated that Iranian drones are being used to wreak havoc in Ukraine, with civilians paying the highest price.
The US has previously sanctioned Iranian entities involved in the “production and transfer of Iranian Shahed – and Mohajer- series UAVs”, two models of drones.
Kyiv and Moscow have both utilised UAVs in their efforts during the war, sometimes for surveillance and sometimes for deadly attacks. Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of planning a protracted bombardment, relying on Iranian-made drones to “exhaust” Ukraine.
Iran had previously denied providing drones to Russia for use in the Ukraine war, but in November, the country confirmed that it had given a “limited number” of the aerial explosives to Moscow. The explosives, Iran said, were delivered to Russia before the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
In December, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that Iran and Russia were moving towards a “full-fledged defense partnership” that included the Russian sale of air defence systems and future deliveries of fighter jets. Kirby also said that Iran was considering setting up a drone production facility inside Russia.
The US has accused Iran of violating international law by failing to gain approval from the United Nations Security Council for drone sales. “The Iranian regime’s military support to Russia not only fuels the conflict in Ukraine but has also resulted in violations of UN Security Council resolution 2231,” Blinken said in the release on Friday.
The Iranian government has taken a defiant stance on its drones and the issue of weapons sales more generally, touting the quality of its military products. It has also asserted that international criticism is rooted in concerns that Iran could become a competitor for global arms sales.
In October, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said that his country’s weapons sales angered countries that “do not want us to grow … to conquer markets”.
“Let the enemy get angry and die of anger,” he added.
The US currently dominates the global weapons market, with 40 US-based companies conducting nearly $300bn in arms sales in 2021, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The US has sometimes faced criticism for its weapons programmes, which critics allege are used to support US allies, even when they have poor human rights records.