US slaps sanctions on Iran drone commander behind attack on Israeli-linked ship

The US Treasury hit Iran’s drone program with sanctions on Friday, boosting pressure on Tehran ahead of the reopening of negotiations on the country’s nuclear program.

The Treasury said lethal unmanned aerial vehicles from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have been used to attack US forces and international shipping in the Gulf region.

The drones have also been supplied to Hezbollah, Hamas and Yemen’s Houthis, and have also been seen in Ethiopia, “where the escalating crisis threatens to destabilize the broader region,” the Treasury said.

The sanctions singled out Brigadier General Saeed Aghajani, who leads the Revolutionary Guards’ UAV Command.

The Treasury said that Aghajani was behind a 2019 drone attack on an oil refinery in Saudi Arabia as well as the July 29, 2021 attack on the Mercer Street commercial ship operated by an Israeli-owned firm off the coast of Oman that saw two crewmen killed.

“Iranian forces have been responsible for several high-profile attacks against international shipping over the last few years, including two prior incidents this year alone,” the Treasury said.

“The imposition of new sanctions reflects the completely contradictory behavior of the White House, [which] speaks of its intention to return to the nuclear accord and continues to impose sanctions,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told state media shortly after the announcement from Washington.

The US has stated its interest in reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but Tehran has not returned to talks on a joint US-Iran return to the accord since June.

In August, Defense Minister Benny Gantz named Aghajani publicly as the head of the IRGC drone unit responsible for the assault on the tanker and other UAV attacks, in a briefing with envoys from countries on the United Nations Security Council.

“The UAV command conducted the attack on Mercer Street,” he said. “Saeed Aghajani plans and provides the training and equipment to conduct terror attacks in the region.”

Also named to the sanctions blacklist were two companies, Kimia Part Sivan and Oje Parvaz Mado Nafar, which provide components for and help develop the armed UAVs of the Revolutionary Guards.

Source: Times of Israel

Also Read: EU, G7 condemn Iran attack on ship that killed British and Romanian crew

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