US Plans Sanctions Campaign to Counter Iran’s ‘Advancing’ Drone, Guided Missile Threat
The US reportedly seeks to launch a sanctions campaign against Iran’s capabilities for precision strikes using drones and guided missiles, as Western security officials voice concerns that these weapons pose a more immediate threat to Middle East stability than Iran’s nuclear enrichment and other activities.
“Iran’s drones are becoming an increasing threat to our allies in the region,” a US official told the Wall Street Journal.
Military and diplomatic officials cited an increase in the use of guided missiles and drones against US forces and allies, and told the outlet of plans to disrupt Iran’s procurement of the parts necessary for those capabilities.
According to Jason M. Brodsky, senior Middle East analyst and editor at Iran International, the trigger for the US campaign is growing concern in both Washington and the region that Iran’s drone and missile programs are advancing — and that they are increasingly being used in theaters like Israel, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
“The Biden administration is trying to show that it is able to engage in diplomacy on Iran’s nuclear program and at the same time crack down on Tehran’s non-nuclear malign activities,” Brodsky told The Algemeiner. “The drone program represents a particular threat as it is low-cost for Iran, but high-impact.”
“Small- and medium-sized drones proliferating across the Middle East are part of Iran’s playbook,” Brodsky continued. “It has developed a localized production capacity that it has attempted to export to its partners and proxies.”
This week, Jordan’s King Hussein disclosed that the country has been attacked by Iranian drones, while in May, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled to European foreign ministers parts from an Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that had been downed during clashes with the Hamas militant group.
“The risk here is that more drones will find their way around the region and beyond because of the expiration of the international arms embargo in October 2020 under UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the nuclear deal. The missile threat also needs to be addressed. And that sunset is coming soon,” Brodsky added, noting that the UN resolution’s restrictions expire in 2023.
He also noted that US Central Command is so “troubled” by Iran’s drone program specifically that its commander, Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. said in April: “for the first time since the Korean War, we are operating without complete air superiority.”
McKenzie Jr. said that one of the most urgent threats in the coming years would be the proliferation of cheap, capable UAVs used by extremist and terror groups.
According to the Journal, the planned sanctions effort comes as the US considers using oil sanctions to sway Iran in the ongoing negotiations over the 2015 nuclear deal, which have been stalled for several weeks.
Officials noted, however, that the campaign should be considered as a distinct element of US policy on Iran, not intended to pressure Tehran in the nuclear talks.