The US Treasury Department says it has imposed a fresh round of sanctions on four individuals and two entities allegedly involved in promoting the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) programs of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and its Quds Force, despite Washington’s claims to be serious in rejoining the 2015 nuclear deal.
The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced on Friday that it has designated members of a network of companies and individuals that have provided “critical support” to the drone programs. The Treasury claimed the IRGC had supplied lethal UAVs to resistance movements in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq and Yemen, which have been allegedly used in “attacks on international shipping and on US forces.” It claimed that the listed sanctions are part of Washington’s ongoing counterterrorism policy, which targets “weapons of mass destruction proliferators and their supporters.”
OFAC also imposed sanctions on Saeed Aqajani, the commander of the IRGC’s Aerospace Force (IRGC ASF) UAV Command, over an alleged role in an attack on the commercial shipping vessel Mercer Street off the coast of Oman on July 29, which resulted in the death of two crewmen. It claimed Aqajani was also behind a drone attack against a Saudi oil refinery in 2019.
Also named to the sanctions blacklist were two companies – Kimia Part Sivan Company (KIPAS) and Oje Parvaz Mado Nafar Company (Mado Company). The Treasury claims they have provided components for and helped develop the IRGC’s armed UAVs.
OFAC also accused Mohammad Ebrahim Zargar Tehrani of helping KIPAS source these components from companies based outside of Iran. It claimed that Brigadier General Abdollah Mehrabi, the chief of the IRGC ASF Research and Self-Sufficiency Jihad Organization (SSJO), had procured UAV engines for Mado Company, an entity he co-owns and has served as its chairman.
According to the Treasury, Mado Company and its managing director Yousef Aboutalebi have allegedly procured UAV engines for the IRGC Navy and entities supporting weapons development. “As a result of today’s designations, all property and interests in property subject to US jurisdiction of the persons designated are blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with the designated persons or their blocked property.”
“In addition, foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitate significant transactions for, or persons that provide material or certain other support to, the persons designated today risk exposure to sanctions that could sever their access to the US financial system or block their property or interests in property under US jurisdiction.”
Iran has repeatedly rejected similar allegations, insisting its advances in the military and defensive sectors are not meant for aggressive purposes and only serve as a deterrent.
The Joe Biden administration’s sanctions came as Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Baqeri-Kani said on Wednesday that Tehran will rejoin the negotiations aimed at the removal of the United States’ sanctions against Tehran before the end of November. “We agree to start negotiations before the end of November. Exact date would be announced in the course of the next week,” he tweeted after a meeting with European Union Deputy Foreign Policy Chief Enrique Morain in Brussels.
The United States re-introduced the sanctions against Iran in 2018, after leaving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a historic nuclear agreement that had lifted the inhumane economic bans in return for some voluntary restrictions on Iran’s nuclear energy program.