The US Treasury on Friday hit Iran’s drone program with sanctions, boosting pressure on Tehran ahead of the reopening of negotiations on the country’s nuclear program, AFP reports.
The Treasury said lethal unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have been used to attack US forces and international shipping in the Gulf region.
The drones have also been supplied to Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Houthis in Yemen, and have also been seen in Ethiopia, “where the escalating crisis threatens to destabilize the broader region,” the Treasury said in a statement quoted by AFP.
The sanctions also singled out Brigadier General Saeed Aghajani, who leads the Revolutionary Guards’ UAV Command.
The Treasury said that Aghajani was behind a 2019 drone attack on an oil refinery in Saudi Arabia as well as the July 29, 2021 attack on a commercial ship off the coast of Oman that saw two crewmen killed.
Also named to the sanctions blacklist were two companies, Kimia Part Sivan and Oje Parvaz Mado Nafar. The Treasury said those companies provide components for and help develop the armed UAVs of the Revolutionary Guards.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry responded to the US sanctions and said they contradicted Washington’s claim to seek a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
“The imposition of new sanctions reflects the completely contradictory behavior of the White House (which) speaks of its intention to return to the nuclear accord and continues to impose sanctions,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh was quoted by Reuters as having told state media.
The latest sanctions come days before Iran and world powers are to restart talks on a return to compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
The previous Iranian government, headed by former President Hassan Rouhani, had been holding indirect talks with the Biden administration on a return to the agreement.
However, the negotiations were adjourned on June 20, two days after Ebrahim Raisi won Iran’s presidential election, and no date has been set for a resumption of dialogue.
This week, Ali Bagheri Kani, Iran’s new chief negotiator on the nuclear issue, announced on Twitter that negotiations with western powers in Vienna over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program would resume by the end of November.
In response, the United States urged Iran to show “good faith” in returning to the talks.
“We are prepared to return to Vienna, and we believe that it remains possible to quickly reach and implement an understanding on return to mutual full compliance” with the 2015 nuclear deal, a State Department spokesperson said.
The talks should focus on “closing the small number of issues that remained outstanding at the end of the sixth round of talks in June,” added the spokesperson.
“As we have also been clear, this window will not remain open forever as Iran continues to take provocative nuclear steps, so we hope that they come to Vienna to negotiate quickly and in good faith.”