US Sanctions Suppliers of Iranian UAVs Used to Attack Ukraine
The United States sanctioned Friday Iranian drone manufacturers who have provided Russia with their unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which Washington says poses a grave threat to the people of Ukraine.
Qods Aviation Industries (QAI), which also operates under the alias Light Airplanes Design and Manufacturing Industries, is an Iranian defense manufacturer that designs and produces UAVs for military use.
American authorities say that these drones have been deployed by Russia since October to bombard infrastructure vital to the well-being of the Ukrainian people. This has resulted in sweeping blackouts across Ukraine’s power grid, circumstances made all the more dire as the winter months are at their coldest this time of year.
The Iranian drone manufacturer, which reports to the country's Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, has evaded prior sanctions in order to procure UAV parts and technologies necessary to keep its production lines moving on schedule.
The drones in question are the Mohajer-6 UAV, which can fly for up to 12 hours at a time and carry a multispectral surveillance payload of up to four precision-guided missiles.
Ukraine and the West became aware of Iran’s military arrangement with Russia last September, when a Mohajer-6 was brought down near the Black Sea and recovered by Ukrainian forces.
“Iran has now become Russia’s top military backer,” said Antony J. Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State. Accusing the middle-eastern state of intentionally fueling an unprovoked war of aggression that has cost Ukraine thousands of lives, Blinken promised that the U.S. will use every means at its disposal to disrupt its enabling of the Russian war machine.
The Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond for comment.
Six QAI executives and board members have since been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury for their role in enabling the Kremlin’s illegal war.
Among them are Seyed Hojatollah Ghoreishi, QAI’s Chairman and head of its Supply, Research, and Industry Affairs division. As Deputy Minister of Defense, he also oversees Iran’s military R&D efforts and negotiated the deal behind supplying UAVs to Russia, the Treasury said.
Also named are Ghassem Damavandian, QAI’s Managing Director who likely facilitated the supply of the company’s UAVs to Russia; and board of directors member Hamidreza Sharifi-Tehrani, who the Treasury said has undoubtedly been involved in supplying drones to the Iranian military.
Last to be sanctioned was Nader Khoon Siavash, director of Iran’s Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO), the organization central to Iran’s entire ballistic missile program.
The U.S. similarly sanctioned last month three entities connected to Moscow’s growing relationship with Tehran, including the entirety of Russia’s Aerospace Forces, the air and space branches of its military.
“We will continue to use every tool at our disposal to deny Putin the weapons that he is using to wage his barbaric and unprovoked war on Ukraine,” said Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen, who further noted that the Kremlin’s “reliance on suppliers of last resort like Iran” reveals their desperation in the face of brave Ukrainian resistance.