US, UK unveil sweeping sanctions on Iran's drone programme

The United States and Britain announced widespread sanctions against Iran's military drone programme on Thursday, in response to its weekend attack against Israel.

"Today, we are holding Iran accountable -- imposing new sanctions and export controls," US President Joe Biden said in a statement.

Tehran launched its first ever direct military attack on Israel late Saturday in retaliation for an April 1 air strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus -- widely blamed on Israel -- that killed seven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including two generals.

The large-scale attack involved more than 300 drones and missiles, most of which were shot down by Israel and its allies including Washington and London, causing little damage.

Israeli officials have not said when or where they would retaliate, but the country's military chief has vowed a response.

Washington's sanctions target 16 people and two companies involved in Iran's unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programme, as well as components for the drones used in the Saturday attack, according to the Treasury Department.

"As I discussed with my fellow G7 leaders the morning after the attack, we are committed to acting collectively to increase economic pressure on Iran," Biden said.

"Let it be clear to all those who enable or support Iran's attacks: the United States is committed to Israel's security," he continued. "And we will not hesitate to take all necessary action to hold you accountable."

Britain also sanctions Tehran

In coordination with the US Treasury, the UK government announced its own suite of sanctions against Tehran on Thursday, targeting seven individuals and six companies for enabling Iran to continue its "destabilizing regional activity, including its direct attack on Israel."

"The Iranian regime's attack against Israel was a reckless act and a dangerous escalation," British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said, adding that the UK had sanctioned the "ringleaders of the Iranian military and forces responsible for the weekend's attack."

"These sanctions -- announced with the US -- show we unequivocally condemn this behavior, and they will further limit Iran's ability to destabilize the region," he added.

Alongside its sanctions against Iran's UAV programme, the US also targeted five companies providing parts for Iran's steel industry, and an automaker involved in providing "material support" to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

"Iran's metals sector generates the equivalent of several billion dollars in revenue annually, with the majority coming from steel exports," the Treasury Department said.

"We're using Treasury's economic tools to degrade and disrupt key aspects of Iran's malign activity, including its UAV programme and the revenue the regime generates to support its terrorism," US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

"We will continue to deploy our sanctions authority to counter Iran with further actions in the days and weeks ahead," she added.