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on the hill

Lawmakers press for strategy to prevent U.S. parts in Iranian drones

House members introduced the bipartisan bill seeking an administration strategy to counter Iran’s imports of Western technology that has been extensively used in drones

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA) is seen during a House Foreign Affairs Committee markup in Rayburn Building on legislation dealing with Venezuela.

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers introduced a bill this week that seeks a multi-department strategy from the administration to prevent Iran from acquiring components from the U.S. and its allies for use in weaponized drones.

Reports earlier this year indicated that a significant number of the parts used in Iranian-made drones and missiles used by Russia in Ukraine were made by U.S. companies, in spite of wide-ranging sanctions. The letter represents a renewed push from Congress to crack down on these supply chains.

The legislation, titled the Block the Use of Transatlantic Technology in Iranian Made Drones Act of 2023, acknowledges that it is “difficult for manufacturers and government regulators alike” to control the ultimate destination and usage of “highly ubiquitous” dual-use components, but emphasizes that the U.S. and its allies “must ensure that technology designed or produced by United States entities is not used to support the Russian federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine.”

The bill would require the Department of Commerce to develop a strategy to “supplement the existing sanctions regime” to prevent the export to Iran of a range of technologies, as well as a plan for identifying technologies that could be used by Iran, manufacturers of such technologies and distributors that have provided such technologies to Iran. The bill would require the Commerce Department to “proactively engage” with U.S. manufacturers to alert them about distributors exporting to Iran.

The bill would also direct the State Department to formulate a plan to engage with European and Asian allies regarding technologies used by Iran, identify foreign manufacturers and bring foreign export control regimes in line with the U.S.’ own. 

It would additionally mandate that the Department of Defense develop options for the military to prevent Iran from acquiring technology used in its drones.

The bill is sponsored by Reps. Bill Keating (D-MA), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Dean Phillips (D-MN) and Claudia Tenney (D-NY).

“It is inexcusable that American products are being used on Iranian drones which are deployed to attack our allies and murder civilians. We must use every tool at our disposal to stop American innovation from being weaponized by our adversaries,” Wilson said in a statement.

Phillips highlighted that the drones are “wreaking havoc worldwide” and have been used “from gathering intelligence on Ukrainian military positions for Russia to attacking U.S. personnel in Syria.”

Keating called it “inexcusable that American products are being used on Iranian drones which are deployed to attack our allies and murder civilians.” Tenney said that the U.S. “cannot tolerate the Iranian regime’s use of advanced technologies from western countries in its weapons systems.”

The legislation could see widespread support in the House. A February letter on the same issue gathered more than 60 signatories, urging a “coordinated, whole-of-government” approach to the issue the bill addresses.

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