US offered Iran to give up drone deliveries to Russia in exchange for sanctions relief

The US is seeking Iran to stop supplying attack drones to Russia and is ready to ease previously imposed sanctions in exchange.

Sources among US and Iranian officials told the Financial Times that the issue has been raised twice this year at indirect talks in Qatar and Oman. In particular, Washington is demanding that Tehran stop sending Moscow not only drones but also spare parts for drones.

Tehran officially denies using its drones in Ukraine and has repeatedly asked Moscow not to use them in the war. However, Washington wants “more concrete steps” from Iran, the Iranian official said.

The negotiators hope the sides will achieve de-escalation in bilateral relations. But to do so, in addition to resolving the drone issue, Iran needs to abandon uranium enrichment above 60 percent, improve cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency and pledge not to attack Americans, the Iranian official said.

In this case, he said, Washington guarantees that it will not impose new sanctions (except for those related to human rights) and will not strictly follow the already imposed restrictions on oil.

However, Iran is also pushing the US to ease pressure from Europe. Tehran is concerned that Britain, Germany and France may impose new sanctions after provisions of the nuclear agreement, which limits Iran’s ballistic missile program, expire in October.

To build mutual trust and make further progress in the talks, the two sides agreed to exchange prisoners, with Iran releasing four American prisoners and the U.S. releasing five Iranians. In addition, Washington will allow Tehran to access $6 billion frozen in South Korea, which will be transferred to an account in Qatar.

Meanwhile, British intelligence reported that Moscow has set up its own production of Iranian Shahed drones, which it has been buying from Tehran since September 2022.

“Russia probably expects to fully cover its drone demand through its own production in the coming months. For now, however, it remains dependent on supplies of components and weapons from Iran, mainly carried out via the Caspian Sea”, the U.K. Defense Ministry said in a summary.

Earlier, experts from the Conflict Armament Research (CAR) research group said that the components in the Russian version of the Shahed-136 drone bore the trademarks of 22 different companies from seven countries, including Russia. Most of the components were produced by firms with headquarters in China, Switzerland and the United States, CAR said in its report.

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