FILE PHOTO: Ali Khamenei is seen near a "3 Khordad" system which is said to had been used to shoot down a U.S. military drone, according to news agency Fars, in this undated handout picture. REUTERS

By Daphne Psaledakis

 – The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on a procurement network it accused of supporting Iran‘s drone and military programs, targeting companies and suppliers in China, Iran and elsewhere in the fresh action aimed at increasing pressure on Tehran.

The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement said it imposed sanctions on the head of Iran’s Pardazan System Namad Arman (PASNA), which was already under U.S. sanctions, and the entity’s front companies and suppliers in Iran, Malaysia, Hong Kong and China that Washington said have enabled PASNA’s procurement of goods and technology.

It marks the latest move by Washington targeting Iran‘s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) industry.

“The network sanctioned today has procured goods and technology for the Iranian government and its defense industry and UAV program,” the Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson, said in the statement.

“Treasury will continue to enforce its sanctions against Iran’s military procurement efforts that contribute to regional insecurity and global instability.”

U.S. Weighs Sanctions for Chinese Companies Over Tehran Surveillance Buildup – WSJ

Iran‘s mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Treasury targeted the managing director of PASNA, accusing him of being responsible for the company’s sanctions evasion efforts. It said he used front companies to seek a variety of electronic components from suppliers based primarily in China.

Three China-based suppliers of PASNA were also targeted in Wednesday’s action alongside a Hong Kong-based company, a Malaysia-based front company and one based in Iran.

The move freezes any U.S. assets of those hit with sanctions and generally bars Americans from dealing with them. Those that engage in certain transactions with them also risk being hit by sanctions.

The latest U.S. move against Iran comes as efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal have stalled and ties between the Islamic Republic and the West became increasingly strained as Iran‘s security forces violently put down the protests following the death of a Kurdish woman in the custody of the morality police last September.

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(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis, Susan Heavey and Paul Grant; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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