The United States House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday requiring the president to sanction persons and entities over Iran's drone program.
The Stop Iranian Drones Act (SIDA), approved 424 against two, requires approval from the Senate and a presidential signature to become law.
The lawmakers behind the proposed legislation say it clarifies that US sanctions on Iran’s conventional weapons program under CAATSA include the supply, sale or of drones to and from Iran.
Farzin Nadimi, defense and security analyst in Washington DC, told Iran International Thursday that SIDA was mainly aimed at putting pressure on Iranian institutions and companies importing equipment and technologies used in building drones (unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Nadimi claimed the legislation would help Washington prevent further development of Tehran's indigenous UAV industry.
Supporters of the legislation, including Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, say it will stop Iran or Iranian allies acquiring combat drones that could be used against US troops or US allies. Attacks by Iranian drones and the export of Iran’s drone technology pose a dire threat, SIDA supporters argue.
Alleging that Iran is "the world's leading exporter of terrorism," Stefanik said the world should know the United States will "use every tool at its disposal to cut off Iran’s access to deadly weapons.”
"Time and again, Iran has used UAVs to threaten global stability and US interests," Republican congressman Ted Deutch tweeted after the bipartisan bill passed the House. . “Congress countered this destabilizing behavior today.”
Hossein Alizadeh, London-based international affairs analyst in London, told Iran International that the legislation’s timing was important in potentially adding new sanctions while negotiations to restore the 2015 nuclear deal are paused.
Iran's drone technology has already been transferred to some of its proxies, including to the Houthis in Yemen but the legislation shows that Republicans and Democrats are determined to prevent the expansion of Iran's military programs, he said.
Iran’s military drone program has expanded in recent years and UAV’s have been more frequently used in attacks in both on land and at sea. Several attacks in Iraq and at least one attack in Syria have targeted US forces.
SIDA was introduced at the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee December 2021, when a statement by the committee said it sought to amend the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) to include as sanctionable any action intended to advance Iran’s UAV program.
“Iran’s UAV proliferation continues to threaten the US. and our allies throughout the Middle East. Whether the attack is launched by Iran, the Houthis, Iran-backed militia groups or any other Iran-sponsored entities, these attacks are intolerable,” Rep. Michael McCaul, one of the two Republican lawmakers who proposed the legislation, said after the legislation passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee in December.
Iranian officials have not commented on the proposed legislation. Admiral Mohammad Mousavi said early November that Iran's drones − some of which, including the ‘suicide drone’ Arash − had a range above 2,000km, further than Iran’s missiles. Mousavi told Sobh-e No daily that such drones could evade defense systems like Israel’s Iron Dome, although Saudi Arabia, the US, Iran, Israel, the Houthis, and Hezbollah have all downed UAVs.