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EU countries agree to slap new sanctions on Iran to curtail drone and missile production

The EU has decided to tighten sanctions on Iran to curtail the production of missiles.
The EU has decided to tighten sanctions on Iran to curtail the production of missiles. Copyright Vahid Salemi/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Vahid Salemi/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
By Jorge Liboreiro
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The European Union has reached a political agreement to tighten sanctions on Iran in retaliation for the recent barrage launched against Israel.

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The sanctions are designed to curtail the exports of EU-made components used in the production of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, and ballistic missiles.

The bloc had previously set up a dedicated regime to target Iranian-made drones, which the country has used to prop up Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The so-called "kamikaze" Shahed drones have been launched against critical infrastructure and residential buildings, killing dozens, and possibly hundreds, of Ukranians.

The scheme has also blacklisted people and entities involved in Iran's UAV programme through travel bans and asset-freezing measures.

But after Tehran's attack on 13 April against Israel, which saw over 300 projectiles headed from different fronts towards the Jewish nation, the EU began working on an expanded raft of sanctions to cover the production of missiles and enlarge the catalogue of prohibited drone-related components.

This expansion was endorsed on Monday by foreign affairs ministers meeting in Luxembourg and will enter into force in the coming days, once the political consensus is translated into legal acts and formally approved.

"We have reached a political agreement," High Representative Josep Borrell announced at the end of the meeting, noting the "potential transfer" of missile technology to Russia has not yet happened.

Iran and its proxies

Iran is estimated to own the largest and most diverse missile arsenal in the Middle East, with more than 3,000 rockets in its stockpile and a reach of up to 2,000 kilometres.

Last week, Israel reportedly carried out a strike near the city of Isfahan, home to the production, research and development of missiles.

Although manufacturing is mostly domestic, Iran still relies on foreign-made technological components that can be disassembled and redeployed into its missile programme. The country has over the years developed an intricate network of operators to obtain sensitive dual-use items, which can be used for both military and civilian purposes, and evade long-standing international sanctions.

Additionally, Iran has supplied lethal equipment to its proxies in the region, including the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, all of which are sworn enemies of Israel.

The barrage on 13 April saw weapons launched from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen, putting the West on high alert for a wider spillover.

The EU sanctions agreed on Monday address this phenomenon by expanding the restrictions to the "whole region of the Middle East and the Red Sea," Borrell said.

Ministers, however, did not make any moves towards the listing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation, an idea that has been on the table since the crackdown on the anti-government protests that erupted last year in the aftermath of the killing of Mahsa Amini.

But such a designation requires first a judicial decision by a competent authority in any of the 27 member states, which is then used as the legal basis for an EU-wide decision.

This article has been updated with more information.

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