Iran Watch Newsletter: October 2023

October 31, 2023

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  • Newsletters

This month’s newsletter features a policy brief on the next steps for European sanctions following the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’s (JCPOA) Transition Day earlier this month, which lifted U.N. Security Council restrictions on Iran’s missile program. Importantly, the EU and UK decided not to lift their own sanctions as stipulated by the deal, but more action by Europe is needed to restore the sanctions convergence with the United States that prevailed prior to the JCPOA.

The newsletter also includes a profile of an Iranian air force general who has deep connections to the country’s military drone industry, as well as news about Iran’s long-running support for Hamas, the decision by the United States and Qatar to re-freeze Iranian access to $6 billion in funds that had been freed as part of a prisoner-swap deal, and the U.S. Navy’s interception of a drone and missile attack launched toward Israel from Yemen. Additions to the Iran Watch library include official documents and statements related to JCPOA Transition Day, new sanctions and enforcement actions, and the U.S. response to rocket attacks by Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria.

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(Credit: European Council)

Policy Brief | A Necessary Transition to Sanctions Convergence

On October 18, several U.N. Security Council restrictions on Iran’s missile program expired. However, the three European parties to the deal—France, Germany, and the United Kingdom—followed through on an earlier pledge not to lift proliferation-related sanctions.

The move was a positive development for mounting a more coordinated sanctions campaign to counter Iran’s nuclear program and other destabilizing activities. But the United States, Europe, and other allies should do more to align their sanctions against Iran’s weapon programs, arms transfers, and revenue-generating economic sectors. Doing so will help to address increasingly interlinked proliferation challenges posed by Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran’s proxies in the Middle East.




In August, Canada sanctioned a key figure in Iran’s defense industry with connections to several state-owned enterprises involved in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) production.

Abdolkarim Bani Tarafi

A brigadier general in the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force and chairman of the Iran Aviation Industries Organization (IAIO); has served as chairman of the board of directors of Qods Aviation Industries (QAI) and Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industries Company (HESA); has reportedly taken part in discussions with Russian officials about Russian-Iranian cooperation in designing UAVs and the export of Iranian UAVs to Russia.

Qods Aviation Industries (QAI)

An Iranian company that designs and manufactures UAVs including the Mohajer series; a subsidiary of IAIO; has reportedly supplied UAVs to all branches of the Iranian military and buyers in Africa and Latin America.

Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industries (HESA)

An Iranian company specializing in military and civilian aircraft and UAVs; a subsidiary of IAIO; has manufactured variants of the Ababil series used by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).




The USS Carney guided missile destroyer, pictured in 2016. (Credit: U.S. Navy)

Incident Involving US Warship Intercepting Missiles Near Yemen Lasted 9 Hours | CNN

October 20, 2023: A U.S. Navy warship operating in the Red Sea shot down four cruise missiles and 15 drones over the course of nine hours, according to a U.S. official, who said that the projectile's trajectory left "little doubt" that their intended target was Israel. A Pentagon spokesman said earlier that the weapons had been launched by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen and were headed north, "potentially" toward targets in Israel.

U.S. and Qatar Deny Iran Access to $6 Billion From Prisoner Deal | New York Times

October 12, 2023: The United States and Qatar agreed to deny Iranian requests to access the $6 billion in funds that had been transferred from South Korean to Qatari bank accounts as part of a U.S.-Iran prisoner swap agreement. Previously, the funds were available to be used for humanitarian purposes, with the U.S. Treasury Department reviewing transaction requests on a case-by-case basis. A White House spokesman said that none of the funds had been spent to date, however.

Hamas Received Weapons and Training from Iran, Officials Say | Washington Post

October 9, 2023: U.S. and Israeli officials said they had no firm evidence of a direct Iranian role in Palestinian militants' surprise attack against Israel on October 7, but, according to U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Jonathan Finer, Iran was "broadly complicit" in supporting Hamas. In recent years, Iran has supplied the group with funding, military training, and technical assistance in manufacturing rockets and drones with advanced guidance systems. Iran's mission to the United Nations denied a direct Iranian role in the attack, while Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi praised the Hamas operation.




Although several U.N. Security Council restrictions on Iran’s nuclear and missile program expired on October 18, multiple countries continued to raise the alarm about Iran’s proliferation-related activities.


Iran-backed non-state groups have carried out numerous attacks against U.S. forces in the Middle East since Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attack against Israel.


The United States announced new sanctions aimed at dismantling the financial networks of Iran’s non-state proxies and took steps to enforce existing sanctions.