By Arab News
The Biden administration is planning a sanctions campaign against Iran’s growing precision drone and missile strike capability, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Officials are concerned that Iran’s missile and drone program — administered exclusively by the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) — represents a more immediate danger to US allies and Middle East stability than Iran’s nuclear enrichment and ballistic missile programs.
While some elements of Iran’s missile program have already been sanctioned, the new measures will cast a wider net by targeting its procurement networks, such as part-providers.
“It’s part of a comprehensive approach so we’re dealing with all aspects of the Iranian threat,” a senior U.S. official told the Wall Street Journal.
The new measures come as US forces and allies in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East have increasingly found themselves on the receiving end of drone and missile attacks by Tehran’s IRGC-aligned regional proxies.
“Iran’s drones are becoming an increasing threat to our allies in the region,” said another U.S. official.
The planned sanctions come as the Biden administration considers tightening enforcement of existing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry amid a stall to nuclear negotiations ongoing in Vienna.
Biden has offered a reduction in sanctions if the Islamic Republic returns to the terms of the 2015 deal, which saw curbs to Iran’s nascent nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions.
However, the issue of Iran’s sub-atomic weaponry, including ballistic missiles, guided missiles and drones has increasingly become a bone of contention between the two longtime enemies.
Iran’s pursuit of further-reaching, more accurate and more powerful missiles earned it a suite of US sanctions, and the Biden administration has made clear that those sanctions are outside the scope of the ongoing nuclear negotiations.
Tehran said it would only return to the 2015 deal if all sanctions on its missile program are lifted, as well as the terror designation the US and others have placed on the IRGC.
The US Treasury department, which is in charge of implementing sanctions, has already placed a variety of restrictions on the Iran-backed Houthi terrorist group in Yemen. The Houthis have used Iranian weapons to wage their ongoing war against the UN-recognized Yemeni government, as well as to target Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region.
In 2019, drones were used to target an important oil refinery in Saudi Arabia, seriously damaging the facility and disrupting the global oil market.
Saudi Arabia alone has been attacked over 100 times in recent months by Iran’s proxies in Yemen, using Iranian equipment including large and small drones, ballistic missiles, and precision missiles.
Iran’s growing domestic arms and drone manufacturing base has proved useful in supplying its proxies, and the new sanctions will aim to disrupt elements of the industry that rely on illicit imports from abroad.
Robert Czulda, an assistant professor specializing in Iran at Poland’s University of Lodz, told the Wall Street Journal that the sanctions “would notably disrupt Iran’s defense supply chain.”