Washington will enforce all sanctions on Russia and Iran, the State Department said Thursday referring to the potential transfer of Iranian drones to Moscow.

A State Department spokesperson reiterated during a briefing that “Iran is preparing to provide Russia with several hundred UAVs, including weapons-capable UAVs,” warning that the US will enforce its sanctions.

Iran did not immediately respond to the statement, but it has never explicitly denied US accusations that it plans to sell military drones to Russia, limiting itself to general expressions of neutrality in the Ukraine war.

Responding to US calls not to provide drones to Russia, Iranian foreign ministry’s spokesman on July 20 said “technical cooperation” with Moscow predated the Ukraine war. “Iranian and Russian technological cooperation predates developments in Ukraine. Any linkage between our cooperation with Russia with developments in Ukraine is intentionally biased.”

But the State Department's warning about enforcing sanctions showed a stiffening of American and possibly European positions on the issue, as an overt supply of Iranian weapons in the Russian invasion would mark the first regular involvement of a country in the conflict on the side of Russia, except Belarus.

“Let me be clear: We will vigorously enforce all US sanctions on both the Russian and Iranian arms trades...including but not limited to Russia-specific authorities and our worldwide nonproliferation sanctions.,” the US spokesperson underlined.

The Biden administration faces a dilemma stemming from Iran’s actions as it tries to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement (JCPOA) by indirect talks with Tehran. If it intensifies its rhetoric and resorts to more sanctions, a new nuclear agreement, already proving to be very hard to achieve, will become even more complicated. If it ignores Iran’s actions, it will come under fire by domestic critics for signing deals with a country behaving aggressively against US interests.

Another complicating factor is Iran’s apparent plots to assassinate former US officials on American soil, which was once again highlighted by the Department of Justice indicting an IRGC operative for trying to hire a hitman to kill former national security adviser John Bolton and possibly former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The Biden administration has strongly condemned Iran’s actions and issued warnings, but it still keeps the nuclear deal on track, separating the issue of Tehran’s malign behavior from its goal of restoring the JCPOA.

At the same time, Iran is driving a hard bargain, slowing the negotiations and extracting concessions.

This policy will make any new nuclear deal achieved with Iran even shakier, inviting rejection by all Republicans and even many Democrats.

In the meantime, Tehran is glorifying its closer relations with Russia, with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in July clearly praising Vladimir Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine.

The quandary the Biden administration faces in trying to deal with Iranian threats and at the same time negotiate for a nuclear deal that would release billions of dollars for Tehran, is apparent from another comment by the State Department spokesperson.

“We remain incredibly concerned about Iran’s use and proliferation of UAVs. They have been used to attack U.S. forces, our partners in the region, and international shipping entities. We will continue to use all available tools, including but not limited to sanctions, to prevent, deter, and dismantle the procurement network that supply UAV-related material and technology to Iran.”

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