Thursday, May 23, 2024

UK teams up with US, Canada to slap new sanctions on Iran’s drone, missile programs

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LONDON — Britain slapped a new battery of tough sanctions on Iran’s drone and missile industries on Thursday, joining the United States and Canada in intensifying economic pressure on Tehran following its audacious aerial bombardment of Israel just weeks ago.

The punitive measures announced by Foreign Secretary David Cameron took direct aim at disrupting Iran’s unmanned aerial vehicle production line that was responsible for the barrage of over 300 drones and missiles that rained down on the Jewish state on April 18. The unprecedented strike, claiming responsibility by Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, marked a dramatic escalation of hostilities that has allies rapidly closing ranks.

“The Iranian regime risked thousands of civilian lives with its reckless attack on Israel, which could have sparked a much wider conflagration in the Middle East,” Mr. Cameron said bluntly. “So we’re tightening the vise on Tehran’s ability to keep churning out these deadly weapons that undermine regional security.”

Specifically, the U.K. is imposing trade bans to cut off the export of equipment and components used to manufacture Iranian drones and missiles. It also blacklisted two individuals and four entities that play key roles in those programs, cutting them off from the global financial system.

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The move came just days after the United States issued its own sanctions strike focused on Iran’s UAV supply chain and the financial networks that facilitate black market arms deals for the country’s Defense Ministry. Among those hit: more than a dozen companies, individuals and vessels accused of “facilitating and financing illicit sales” of Iranian drones.

It was the latest salvo in an escalating economic pressure campaign on Iran over not just its arms programs, but also its brutal crackdown on protests and its support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with UAV exports.

“Iran’s behavior only grows more unacceptable and destabilizing,” said Brian Nelson, the U.S. under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. “Whether it’s the regime’s direct missile strike on Israel, the provision of UAVs to Russia, or its violent repression of its own citizens, the U.S. and our allies will keep tightening the screws through sanctions.”

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The European Union also weighed in on Wednesday, rolling out its own suite of sanctions tied to both the Israel strike and the deadly suppression of the protests sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death last year.

For Iran, the avalanche of new sanctions compounds the economic misery it has endured for years under biting restrictions imposed by Western powers over its nuclear program and other malign activities. Britain alone has over 400 sanctions designations in place against Iranian individuals, companies and organizations.

Tehran has tried to use its drones and missiles to project power regionally, supply allies like Russia’s military, deter foes like Saudi Arabia and Israel, and create a semblance of deterrence against the U.S. and other adversaries. The strike on Israel marked its most brazen military operation yet, one personally greenlit by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei according to U.S. officials.

Israel’s military says it managed to shoot down around 90% of the Iranian projectiles using a combination of cutting-edge air defense systems and support from U.S. early warning planes. But even a handful of strikes getting through could have caused mass casualties in one of the world’s most volatile regions.

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“This reckless attack on our closest ally is absolutely unacceptable and demands a strong, united response,” said Cameron. “Our new sanctions show the U.K. will not stand by as Iran pursues these dangerous and destabilizing activities.”

The question now is whether the mounting economic pain will compel Iran to recalculate its militaristic policies and nuclear ambitions. So far, the regime has only dug in further, doubling down on the very conduct that sparked the sanctions in the first place.

As tensions soar, the specter of a direct military confrontation between Israel and Iran, or the U.S. and Iran, grows more plausible. With diplomatic efforts at a stalemate, the sweeping new sanctions may represent a last economic jamming of the brakes before that nightmare scenario becomes reality.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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