Foreign Affairs
US Takes Aim at Iran’s Missile and Drone Programs as UN Measures Expire: What’s Next?


The US has taken steps to restrict Iran’s missile program and curb Iran’s drone transfers to Russia after the expiration of U.N. Security Council sanctions. Russia stated that transfers of missile technology to Iran no longer require Security Council approval as of Wednesday, when U.N. sanctions lapse.

The US effort to limit Iran’s missile and drone programs comes amid renewed American criticism of Tehran for backing Hamas, which carried out an October 7 rampage against southern Israel. The sanctions against Iran are under the “sunset” clause of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which granted relief to Tehran in exchange for limiting its nuclear program.

The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on 11 individuals, eight entities, and one vessel based in Iran, Hong Kong, China, and Venezuela that enable Iran’s “destabilizing ballistic missile and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programs.” Iran’s missile and UAV program will be under pressure due to sanctions, constraining conventional arms transfers and military relationships with Venezuela and Russia.

The State Department plans to publish a statement from over 45 countries committing to counter Iranian missile-related activities through the Proliferation Security Initiative, a program initiated during George W. Bush’s presidency. Despite U.N. sanctions expiring, most global statements indicate that Iran and Russia will remain pariahs in this situation, as Iran and Russia continue to provide UAVs used against civilian targets in Ukraine.

The Biden administration has been criticized by US Republicans for a prisoner swap with Tehran, which allowed five US citizens detained by Iran to leave in exchange for $6 billion in Iranian funds transferred to Qatar. The funds can only be spent by Iran on humanitarian goods. U.S. officials claim they have no evidence linking Iran to the attacks on Israel, but argue that Tehran is complicit due to its long-term support for Hamas.

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