US issues further sanctions on Iran, targets drones

FILE PHOTO: Drones are seen at an undisclosed location in Iran

By Daphne Psaledakis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday issued further sanctions on Iran, targeting Iranian drones, including their use by Russia in the war in Ukraine, as Washington seeks to ratchet up pressure on Tehran.

The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement said the action, taken in coordination with the United Kingdom and Canada, targets over one dozen entities, individuals and vessels it accused of playing a key role in facilitating and financing the clandestine sale of Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles to Iran's Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL).

MODAFL in turn supports Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and Russia's war in Ukraine, the Treasury said.

“Iran’s Ministry of Defense continues to destabilize the region and world with its support to Russia’s war in Ukraine, unprecedented attack on Israel, and proliferation of UAVs and other dangerous military hardware to terrorist proxies,” Treasury's Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson, said.

Washington also targeted two companies and a vessel involved in the shipment of Iranian commodities, the Treasury said.

“The United States, in close coordination with our British and Canadian partners, will continue to use all means available to combat those who would finance Iran’s destabilizing activities," Nelson said.

Iran's mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


The Treasury said it targeted Sahara Thunder, accusing it of being a main front company that oversees MODAFL's commercial activities in support of the IRGC and Russia's war in Ukraine.

It said the company plays a key role in Iran's design, development, manufacture and sale of thousands of drones, many of them ultimately transferred to Russia for use against Ukraine.

As of 2022, Russian officials were negotiating a deal for Sahara Thunder to deliver and produce thousands of drones per year at a facility in Russia under U.S. sanctions, the Treasury said.

Sahara Thunder's leadership and shipping network, which the Treasury said the company relied on for the sale and shipment of Iranian commodities on behalf of MODAFL to jurisdictions including China, Russia and Venezuela, were also targeted.

An Iran-based company involved in the procurement and development of unmanned aerial vehicles, its leadership and an Iranian cargo airline were also among those hit with sanctions.

The U.S. earlier this month had warned it would impose further sanctions on Iran following its unprecedented attack on Israel.

Washington has since taken measures, including targeting Iran's drone program, steel industry and cyber actors.

Iran this month launched more than 300 drones and missiles against Israel, its first direct attack on the country, in retaliation for a suspected Israeli air strike on its embassy compound in Damascus on April 11 that killed elite military officers.

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Susan Heavey; Editing by Sharon Singleton)