Updated Feb 15, 2023 - World

Scoop: EU expected to sanction IRGC entities over drones sent to Russia

An Iranian Shahed-129 drone on display in Tehran in 2016. Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images

An Iranian Shahed-129 drone on display in Tehran in 2016. Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images

The European Union is expected to impose sanctions on seven entities connected to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that the bloc says are involved in the delivery of drones to Russia for its war against Ukraine, two senior EU officials said.

The big picture: One senior EU official told Axios the bloc is "much more concerned" about Iran's weapons support for Russia than it was before. "The IRGC is much more the focus than it used to be, and there is a real change of mindset." Until recently, most of the EU focus was on Iran's nuclear program and not on the IRGC military activity abroad.

  • A decision on the sanctions could be announced as soon as this week.
  • Iran has acknowledged it delivered some drones to Russia before the war started, but denies doing so after the invasion began. That's despite growing evidence to the contrary.

Driving the news: A senior EU official, who spoke to Axios on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the issue, said the package of sanctions was formally presented on Wednesday in a meeting of the European Commission with the ambassadors of the member states.

  • The package includes sanctions against the IRGC Aerospace Force, which the bloc says is involved in the delivery of drones to Russia and the training of Russian operators, and the IRGC Research and Self-Sufficiency Jihad Organization, which the official said is involved in the development of drones.
  • Other entities expected to be sanctioned, according to the official, include Oje Parvaz Mado Nafar Company, Paravar Pars Company, Qods Aviation Industries, and Shahed Aviation Industries.
  • According to EU officials, these entities are involved in the manufacturing of the drones that were delivered to Russia, including importing the parts need to make the drones.
  • The package also includes sanctions against the Russian company Concern Morinformsystem–Agat, the officials said.

A senior EU official said the list of entities was drafted according to intelligence reports provided by Ukraine, which included an analysis of Iranian drones that were captured and showed which dual-use materials were used to build them.

  • The senior EU official said the negotiations over the sanctions package formally started on Wednesday but stressed there has been no pushback so far from member states in the informal consultations in recent days.
  • The official added that the sanctions package will likely be approved and announced within days, ahead of the first anniversary of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24.

Between the lines: The EU had previously sanctioned several individuals and entities over human rights abuses and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missiles.

  • The fresh sanctions will come in the context of the use of dual-use materials for building drones for Russia, the official said.

What they're saying: Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said in a speech at the European Parliament on Wednesday that Iranian-made drones kill Ukrainian civilians.

  • "It is our duty to sanction them and confront Iran about the supply of drones and the transfer of know-how to build production sites in Russia," she said, referring to potentially fresh sanctions.

What to watch: The senior EU official who spoke to Axios said the EU is still very concerned about the expected delivery of short-range ballistic missiles from Iran to Russia.

  • The official said that Tehran and Moscow have already signed a contract for the sale of the Fateh-110 missiles with a 186-mile range, even though the delivery still hasn’t taken place.
  • The senior EU official said more and more countries in the EU are discussing the possibility of designating the IRGC as a terror organization and stressed this is an ongoing discussion.

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