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U.S. targets Iran’s drone production in retaliation for Israel attack

The Treasury Department announced new sanctions against Iran on Thursday in retaliation for its recent air attack on Israel, as the Biden administration seeks an economic rather than military response to Tehran.

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said the administration’s actions would “degrade and disrupt” Iran’s drone program that targeted civilian populations in Israel. The sanctions also target Iranian steel production, a step that has not been taken by U.S. authorities since 2021. The United States has imposed sanctions on more than 600 Iran-linked entities over the past three years, according to the Treasury Department.

“Our actions make it harder and more costly for Iran to continue its destabilizing behavior at every turn,” Yellen said in a statement. “We will continue to deploy our sanctions authority to counter Iran with further actions in the days and weeks to come.”

The new sanctions, which the administration announced earlier this week, appear intended to ease rather than inflame tensions in the region, as President Biden seeks to prevent a wider spread of hostilities in the Middle East. Some critics have pushed the administration to go further by reducing the revenue available to the Iranian government by sanctioning China’s huge purchases of Iranian oil. The Treasury Department has taken some steps to sanction Chinese companies for such purchases, but a more ambitious crackdown would risk driving up global oil prices, and thus U.S. gas prices in an election year.

The administration appears, at least for now, to be largely avoiding such an escalation. Instead, the sanctions imposed by the administration on Thursday appear to focus on targets inside Iran.

The sanctions have cut off their targets from banks and other financial institutions that use the U.S. dollar. But it is unclear how many Western companies support Iranian drone production, especially since the Iranian economy already has minimal ties to the Western economies of the United States and its allies.

Western countries already had sanctions in place over Iranian drones due to their use by Russian forces in Ukraine, said Rachel Ziemba, deputy senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a foreign policy think tank. . “I consider it pretty much the same thing,” she said. “This is not an escalatory measure to stifle energy revenues, and I am skeptical that the names involved rely on US dollar nexus points, which could limit their efficiency.”

Even before regional tensions were reignited by the October 7 attacks on Israel, Iran’s economy was one of the most heavily sanctioned in the world. The United States has imposed sanctions on Iran since 1979, and the Trump administration significantly stepped up economic pressure after 2018, when it withdrew from the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear deal.

Targets of the latest sanctions include 16 people and two companies that enable drone production in Iran. Five companies that supply materials to Iranian steel producer Khouzestan Steel Co. were also sanctioned. The Treasury is also sanctioning three subsidiaries of an Iranian automaker accused of supporting the Iranian regime.

Iran sent more than 300 drones and missiles to Israel this weekend in response to a deadly Israeli attack on an Iranian consulate in Syria. The Iranian assault did not cause major damage or injuries, as Israeli, U.S. and other forces intercepted most of the barrage.

News Source : www.washingtonpost.com
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