More than nine months into the Ukraine conflict, the UK Tuesday sanctioned an Iranian company and three people over supplying “second rate” drones to Russia.
The Oje Parvaz Mado Nafar, its director Yousef Aboutalebi were designated along with Brigadier General Abdollah Meehrabi, a military research head, and Afshin Khajeh Fard, head of Iran’s Aviations Industries Organization. A press release from the British foreign office cited James Cleverly, the foreign minister, saying that MADO was “the company responsible for manufacturing engines for the drones…used by Russia in Ukraine.”
Any assets held in the United Kingdom by those sanctioned can now be seized. The individuals will not be permitted to enter the UK, and no British citizen may transfer money to them.
The UK also designated 12 Russian military commanders, “including [those leading] units implicated in attacks on Ukrainian cities.” The press release noted that “directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects is a serious violation of international law – those responsible must be held to account.”
This followed the European Union Monday designating four individuals, including the head of Iran’s air force, over alleged drone supplies, as well four military contractors or design companies. This came in addition to two Iranian military commanders in November. Both the UK and the EU say the sanctions are intended to change the behavior of those sanctioned.
Cleverly said UK sanctions were “taking the wheels off the Russian war machine.” The press release referred to “information” released by the US December 9 - apparently a statement by White House Security spokesman John Kirby - showing Iran had become “one of Russia’s top military backers.”
Iranian Shahed-136 kamikaze drones Russia uses against Ukraine
Kirby spoke mainly then of US “concern” that Russia “intended to provide Iran with advanced military components,” while senior US officials were widely quoted that Russia was ready to send Sukhoi SU-35 fighter jets to Iran, which has been unable to acquire modern fighters since the 1990s.
In other anonymous briefings, the Washington Post quoted a US “military official” December 9 that Russia had Iranian ballistic missiles, and that Tehran would receive “up to $1 billion” and “other, still unknown inducements” for setting up drone productions inside Russia. Kirby was one of two US officials saying on-the-record the same week that the US had no evidence of Iran transferring missiles to Russia.
The UK press release explaining its latest sanctions reiterated that Iran sending “hundreds of drones to Russia” violated “its international legal obligations,” presumably referring to the US and UK argument this would violate a clause in United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, an agreement the US left in 2018 imposing ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions on Iran to slash its international trade.
Cleverly said the “Iranian regime” was “isolated internationally” due to “brutal repression of its own people” and a “threat it poses in the Middle East” and was therefore “in desperate need of support from [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.”
Former British prime minister Boris Johnson called this week in the Wall Street Journal for Nato to give Ukraine longer-range missiles including ATACMS (surface-to-surface missiles with a 300km range), but he also suggested the war could end with Russian retaining regions held before February 24. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy rules this out, with the US saying publicly it’s up to him to decide.
UK and US officials maintain their approach - arming Ukraine but not sending the most offensive weapons Zelenskyy demands – is slowly degrading Russian capacities. British military aid to Ukraine has reached £2.3 billion ($2.84 billion) and US aid $20 billion. The EU agreed Monday €2 billion ($2.1 million) in addition to the €2 billion already sent.
“Defence Intelligence reports suggest that Russian armed forces are struggling to replenish their missile reserves,” Cleverly said, according to the British press release, “while they are increasingly forced to rely on second rate [sic] drones supplied by Iran to keep up their inhumane bombardments of the Ukrainian people.”