February 7, 2023 | Flash Brief

U.S. Takes Action to Stem Iran’s Drone Capabilities

February 7, 2023 | Flash Brief

U.S. Takes Action to Stem Iran’s Drone Capabilities

Latest Developments

The United States took steps last week to curtail Iran’s drone production capabilities, with reports over the weekend indicating that Moscow and Tehran plan to build a drone factory in Russia. The U.S. Commerce Department issued new trade restrictions against seven Iranian entities associated with drone production, adding them to its export control list. This will require U.S.-based companies to seek special permission to export their products to these entities. In addition, the Treasury Department sanctioned an Iranian manufacturer of Shahed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which Tehran has provided to Russia. Treasury also targeted an Iranian oil tanker with launch capabilities for UAVs as well as a ship accompanying it.

Expert Analysis

“The international hodgepodge of cheap commercial parts found in Iranian drones should be a wakeup call to both the U.S. government and the private sector to swiftly grow and abide by export controls, respectively. Growing this web of restrictions can become one leg of several used in a larger counter-Iranian drone policy by Washington.”  Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

“Western companies should consider this a warning order that investigations are coming and enforcement actions will follow. Any company that’s found its components showing up in Iranian drones needs to start over-complying with U.S. export control requirements.” Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

American Parts Found in Iranian Drones

American companies have found it difficult to track the distribution of their products to ensure that third-party distributors are not reselling them to Iranian drone manufacturers. A Ukrainian intelligence assessment of a downed Iranian Shahed-136 drone used by Russia found that 13 American companies manufactured 40 of its 52 components. Companies in Canada, Switzerland, Japan, Taiwan, and China manufactured the other 12.

Companies Need to Monitor Supply Chains

Ensuring that American parts do not fall into the hands of Iran’s drone manufacturers would require expanding export controls and both informing and applying pressure on companies to better monitor their sales and supply chains. The Biden administration’s recent sanctions can help incentivize American firms to exercise enhanced due diligence with this process while being aware of diversion and end-user obfuscation-related concerns.

Related Analysis

Treasury Sanctions Leaders of Iranian Drone and Missile Companies,” FDD Flash Brief

Iranian Shahed-136 Drones Increase Russian Strike Capacity and Lethality in Ukraine,” by John Hardie and Ryan Brobst


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