They announced the sanctions, which target Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force, Qods Aviation Industries, and Shahed Aviation Industries Research Center, among others, on Tuesday. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the sanctions, saying Iranian UAVs “are being used by Moscow to strike civilian infrastructure and cities.”
The IRGC Aerospace Force “likely helped facilitate Iran’s supply of military UAVs to Russia,” while Qods provides the Mohajer-6 and Shahed Aviation produces the Shahid-series UAV variants, including the Shahed-136, which has been documented in Ukraine.
The Biden administration, which has warned in recent weeks that Iran and Russia had grown closer over the course of the war, announced weeks ago that “a relatively small number” of personnel connected with the IRGC had traveled to Crimea to help train the Russians on the drones due to initial shortcomings. Iran has denied the allegations.
“As we have demonstrated repeatedly, the United States is determined to sanction people and companies, no matter where they are located, that support Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine. Today’s action exposes and holds accountable companies and individuals that have enabled Russia’s use of Iranian-built UAVs to brutalize Ukrainian civilians,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. “This is part of our larger effort to disrupt Russia’s war effort and deny the equipment it needs through sanctions and export controls.”
The department also designated the Wagner private military contractor company for operating in the defense sector of the Russian economy. Blinken, in the announcement, said the group sought to acquire Iranian UAVs themselves “almost certainly to support its operations in Ukraine.”
Abbas Djuma and Tigran Srabionov, both of whom were involved in the Wagner Group’s attempt to purchase Iranian drones, were sanctioned, as were two entities — United Arab Emirates-based Success Aviation Services FZC and I Jet Global DMCC — which were involved in the transfer of the UAVs from Iranian custody to Russian.
A day earlier, the departments announced sanctions against 14 individuals and twice as many entities that the department alleges have been involved in supporting Russia’s military as it wages its war in Ukraine. Those sanctioned include French real estate companies, a group of Swiss nationals, and Taiwanese microelectronic component purchasers.
The war has exhausted Russia’s defense resources, and its defense industrial capabilities have been unable to keep up with demand, forcing the Kremlin to turn to international allies, such as Iran and North Korea.
National Security Council coordinator John Kirby told reporters earlier this month that its “information indicates the DPRK is covertly supplying Russia’s war in Ukraine with a significant number of artillery shells,” though the North Korean government has denied the allegations.