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Europe to sanction Iran drone companies for arming Russia in Ukraine

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen called on member states to adopt a 10th sanctions package against Russia that also includes a ban on Iranian companies.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gives a press conference at the EU headquarters, Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 16, 2023.

PARIS — The European Commission proposed this week a 10th package of sanctions against Russia, but that would also target Iran for its armament of Moscow in Ukraine with suicidal drones.

The sanctions are expected to be announced on Feb. 24, the one year anniversary of the Russian invasion in Ukraine. It was proposed the European leadership and would the third time that another country (Iran),  is targeted in the framework of the European sanctions against Russia.

Addressing the European Parliament on Wednesday, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said that the proposed trade ban and technology export control package should reinforce pressure on Russia and on its allies. "We propose — among other things — export restrictions on multiple electronic components used in Russian armed systems, such as drones, missiles, helicopters. But there are also hundreds of Iranian-made drones used by Russia on the battlefields in Ukraine," she said.

"So for the first time we are also proposing to sanction Iranian entities including those linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guards. It is our duty to sanction them, and confront Iran about the supply of drones and the transfer of know-how to build production sites in Russia," von der Leyen noted.

She explained that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been providing Russia with Shahed drones to attack civilian infrastructure in Ukraine. "Therefore, we are now adding seven Iranian entities to our dual-use regime. They are now under a complete ban to sell sensitive items to Russia," she added.

The Iranian companies that will be targeted, manufacture or sell dual-use components also used for the production of the Iranian-made drones Russia. This in turn would mean that the sanctioned companies could no longer trade with any European partner. 


To be enacted, the sanctions package must be adopted by the member states of the European Union.

In parallel to the Russia-Iran sanctions, European diplomatic sources told Al-Monitor on Thursday that Brussels is currently preparing a fifth wave of human rights sanctions against Iran. The diplomatic sources said they were hoping for the list to be finalized at the EU foreign ministers' monthly meeting in Brussels scheduled for next Monday.

Much like prior sanctions, the fifth wave will fall under the category of breach of human rights. In other words, it will include additional people and entities in Iran who are accused of breaching human rights and oppressing anti-regime demonstrations. At the end of January, the European foreign ministers added 37 names of officials and entities to its asset-freeze and visa-ban blacklist. Those listed are accused of involvement in Tehran's bloody crackdown on protesters and the trampling of human rights.

Israeli diplomats in European capitals have been especially active in recent weeks pushing more sanctions on Iran. Prevailing assessment in Israel is that the Russian use of Iranian-made drones generated a significant shift in the European stance against Tehran. Still, that does not mean that Europe is ready to blacklist the IRGC as a terrorist organization.

The European Parliament has been calling for such a move, but so far no EU member state has taken up such an initiative. Without at least one member state designating the IRGC as a terrorist group, a motion to include the organization in the overall EU blacklist cannot be submitted.

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