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US: Iranian drone supplies to Russia violate UN resolution on nuclear deal

State Department assessment latest development to cloud outlook for return to nuclear deal
People demonstrate outside the Iranian embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, after the city was hit by swarms of kamikaze drones sold by Iran to Russia, on 17 October 2022(AFP)

Iran's drone deliveries to Moscow are in violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the agreement between world powers and Tehran to curb the Iranian nuclear programme, the State Department said on Monday, echoing British and French assessments.

"Earlier today our French and British allies publicly offered the assessment that Iran’s supply of these UAVs (for) Russia is a violation of UN Security Council resolution 2231," US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters on Monday. "This is something that we agree with."

The nuclear deal between Iran and Britain; China; France; Germany; Russia; and the United States limited Tehran's uranium enrichment activity in exchange for sanctions relief.

The agreement, endorsed by UN Resolution 2231, also placed a conventional arms embargo on Iran until October 2020. Western powers maintain that the resolution pertains to missiles and related technologies until October 2023 and that it encompasses the export and purchase of advanced military systems such as drones.

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"It is our belief that these UAVs that are transferred from Iran to Russia and used by Russia in Ukraine are among the weapons that would remain embargoed under 2231," Patel said.

The nuclear deal has been defunct since 2018, when then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the agreement. Iran gradually restarted its nuclear programme after the US exit.

The comments from Patel are the latest indication of the nuclear talks' flagging prospects. In September, US officials accused Iran of taking “a step backward” in negotiations. Since then, hopes for a deal have fallen further.

Tehran has pursued a violent crackdown on protests that erupted over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody on 16 September. Amini was arrested by Iran’s “morality police” for allegedly violating the country’s law requiring women to cover their hair with a hijab.

The demonstrations have since morphed into a general outpouring of anger across society - including religious Iranians - over government repression, excesses by security forces and frustration at the country’s faltering economy, which is under heavy US sanctions.

In recent weeks, Iran has also found itself making headlines for supplying Russia with armed drones. The prevalence of Iranian drones in Ukraine’s battlefield has picked up in recent weeks, with Russia launching massive strikes on Kyiv as it suffers setbacks in its military campaign.

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