US sanctions target suppliers, enablers of Iran’s drone production program

4 entities, aviation executive named over procurement of parts for UAV program; US lawmakers push to sanction Iranian officials over rapper’s death sentence

A Shahed-136 drone is seen in the sky seconds before it hit buildings in Kyiv, Ukraine, October 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
A Shahed-136 drone is seen in the sky seconds before it hit buildings in Kyiv, Ukraine, October 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

WASHINGTON — The US on Friday issued sanctions targeting entities it accused of enabling Iran’s drone program, in Washington’s latest action seeking to disrupt the production and proliferation of the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) used by Russia against Ukraine and in attacks on US troops.

“Today’s action reinforces our commitment to disrupt Iran’s production and proliferation of deadly UAVs that continue to be used by Russia against Ukraine and by regional terrorist proxies against our troops,” US Treasury Department Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson, said in a statement.

“Treasury will continue to impose costs on those who seek to procure the components Iran needs for its UAV programs and enable the shipment of these weapons to destabilizing actors around the world.”

Iran has supplied thousands of Shahed kamikaze drones to Russia throughout its invasion of Ukraine launched in February 2022.

They have been used to exhaust Ukrainian air defenses and hit infrastructure far from the front lines.

The US Treasury said it imposed sanctions on four entities that have procured critical parts for Iran’s drone program as well as an executive of Iran Aviation Industries Organization (IAIO), a subsidiary of Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL).

File: In this photo released by the Iranian army on Oct. 3, 2023, drones are launched during the air force nationwide drone drill centered in northern Semnan province, Iran. (Iranian Army via AP)

The Treasury said Afshin Khajeh Fard, the chief of IAIO, oversees its efforts to produce drones and missiles.

Friday’s action freezes any of their US assets and generally bars Americans from dealing with them. Those that engage in certain transactions with them also risk being hit with sanctions.

Last month, Iran carried out an unprecedented attack on Israel with hundreds of drones and missiles.

US lawmakers push Iran sanctions over rapper death sentence

Also Friday, a bipartisan group of US lawmakers introduced legislation targeting Iranian officials involved in the prosecution and death sentence of a rapper who came to fame for his lyrics about the 2022 death of an Iranian woman and his criticism of the Islamic Republic.

The proposal would impose sanctions on the judges, prosecutors and investigators of Iran’s Revolutionary Courts in response to Tehran’s continuing crackdown against dissenters — including rapper Toomaj Salehi — after years of mass protests in the country. It would also codify into law that the US views any judgments issued by Iran’s courts against political prisoners as violations of human rights.

“Toomaj Salehi has used his platform to give a voice to the voiceless and bravely speak out against the Iran regime’s torture, abuse, and crackdown against the free will of the Iranian people,” Rep. Young Kim of California, one of the bill’s lead sponsors, said in a statement to The Associated Press. “Unfortunately, he is just the latest victim of the regime’s cruelty.”

Illustrative – Protesters attend a rally against a death sentence given to popular rapper in Iran Toomaj Salehi and to support to the women of Iran, in Berlin, Germany, April 28, 2024 (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

She added that the bill — titled the TOOMAJ Act — will allow the US “to stand side by side with Toomaj and other peaceful protesters demanding basic human rights and take targeted action against the Iran regime.”

It marks the latest congressional action against the Islamic Republic in recent months as Democratic and Republican lawmakers have united in decrying the country’s human rights record as well as its role in the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, including the Israel-Hamas war. Leading the legislative effort with Kim are Reps. David Trone, Mike Lawler and Adam Schiff.

News of the death sentence ordered against 33-year-old Salehi by a Revolutionary Court in Isfahan, a central Iranian city, came down in late April. A lawyer for the rapper confirmed the sentence to The Associated Press as Iranian officials have yet to publicly announce it. Revolutionary Courts in Iran often involve closed-door hearings, secret evidence and few rights for those on trial.

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