Trending: U.S., European Sanctions Looming As Iran Bolsters Russian Arms Race

Trending: U.S., European Sanctions Looming As Iran Bolsters Russian Arms Race

Recent geopolitical developments have led to tensions rising amongst several of the Western world’s most notable powers, with the source of their disagreement(s) however centering on a rather unlikely source. The United States, European Union and other key international players have rained sanctions down upon the Middle Eastern nation of Iran for over a decade, this as the embattled Republic remains a threat to both economic stability and national security at the international level given its ties to nuclear weapons, terrorism financing – primarily on behalf of Hamas and Hezbollah – and other illicit financial activity. Despite the U.S. Treasury Department designating over one thousand individuals and entities connected to terrorism and terrorist financing operations on behalf of the Iranian regime, the Iranian government has remained the key benefactor to many of the top terrorist organizations in the region, further promoting destabilizing activity both domestically and abroad. As the ongoing military conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues forward, Iran has expanded its sponsorship to other regional allies, a growing list that now includes Russia. To date, the Kremlin has been gifted a wealth of weaponry including UAV’s and other military hardware by Iran to help bolster their invasion of Ukraine. The most significant concern however comes in regards to the provision of ballistic missiles and associated technologies to Russia, which would threaten to further escalate the war and lead to additional bloodshed in the region. While the U.S. maintains that there remains no evidence that Iran has sent ballistic missiles to Russia to date, Iran’s charity work is now coming under fire by American government, as well as multiple key members of the European Union.

This past week, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) targeted weapons procurement networks in Iran, Turkey, Oman, and even Germany with international sanctions. Government authorities have discovered that these networks are providing many of the crude materials required to create missiles for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force Self Sufficiency Jihad Organization (IRGC ASF SSJO), the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL), and additional U.S.-designated entities in Iran’s defense industrial base.2 They have also been linked to Iran’s Centrifuge Technology Company which is directly correlated to the development of their atomic energy program. The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) also moved to sanction five companies based in Turkey and two Turkish citizens operating in the realms of logistics, foreign trade, mining, petroleum and chemicals for their roles in similar activities.

“Through complex covert procurement networks, Iran seeks to supply rogue actors around the world with weapons systems that fuel conflict and risk countless civilian lives,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. “The United States will continue to use our tools to disrupt these networks and hold accountable those countries that would help proliferate Iran’s drones and missiles.”2

The U.S. is also threatening sanctions against any persons or entities that choose to engage in financial transactions of any kind with the aforementioned sanctioned persons and entities.

Across the Atlantic, France, Germany, the Netherlands and five other EU countries are keen to follow the Americans’ lead by sanctioning Iran, though these efforts have been met with some initial resistance. The Wall Street Journal writes that more European countries have been looking for new ways to pressure Tehran after it walked away from diplomatic efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, imprisoned a number of Europeans, backed the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel and expanded its military support for Russia.1 Thus far, the parties at hand have turned to lobbying EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell to take action to target those backing pro-Iranian military interests. While potential actions in this regard have also received support from the Biden Administration, specifically with regards to sanctioning Iranian transfers of missiles and military equipment to regional militias as well as to Russia, senior EU officials have pushed back, claiming that imposing more sanctions against Iran will undermine their diplomacy efforts with Tehran.1 They also claim that tensions could be escalated further in the region should such measures be taken.

Regarding these developments, Borrell released the following statement this past week:

“It remains crucial to carefully assess the potential impact of further measures to avoid that the EU’s engagement could be construed as escalation or to jeopardize other important objectives of EU policy such as containing Iran’s nuclear program which is more urgent than ever.”1

It remains to be seen whether a united effort amongst these nations will eventually commence or if these individual EU member-states will be forced to pressure Iran on their own.


  1. Norman, Laurence. “Exclusive | Europeans at Odds over Sanctioning Iran for Weapons Transfers  in Middle East.” The Wall Street Journal, 19 Mar. 2024. 
  2. “Treasury Targets Multiple Procurement Networks Supporting Iran’s Proliferation-Sensitive Programs.” U.S. Department of the Treasury, 21 Mar. 2024. 

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