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4 Jan 2023

Natasha Bertrand, CNN

Ukraine: Single Iranian attack drone found to contain parts from more than dozen US companies, recent investigation shows; incl. cos. comments

CNN Exclusive: A single Iranian attack drone found to contain parts from more than a dozen US companies, 4 January 2023

Parts made by more than a dozen US and Western companies were found inside a single Iranian drone downed in Ukraine last fall, according to a Ukrainian intelligence assessment obtained exclusively by CNN.

The assessment, which was shared with US government officials late last year, illustrates the extent of the problem facing the Biden administration, which has vowed to shut down Iran’s production of drones that Russia is launching by the hundreds into Ukraine.

CNN reported last month that the White House has created an administration-wide task force to investigate how US and Western-made technology – ranging from smaller equipment like semiconductors and GPS modules to larger parts like engines – has ended up in Iranian drones.

Of the 52 components Ukrainians removed from the Iranian Shahed-136 drone, 40 appear to have been manufactured by 13 different American companies, according to the assessment.

The remaining 12 components were manufactured by companies in Canada, Switzerland, Japan, Taiwan, and China, according to the assessment...

NSC spokesperson Adrienne Watson told CNN in a statement that “We are looking at ways to target Iranian UAV production through sanctions, export controls, and talking to private companies whose parts have been used in the production. We are assessing further steps we can take in terms of export controls to restrict Iran’s access to technologies used in drones.”

There is no evidence suggesting that any of those companies are running afoul of US sanctions laws and knowingly exporting their technology to be used in the drones. Even with many companies promising increased monitoring, controlling where these highly ubiquitous parts end up in the global market is often very difficult for manufacturers, experts told CNN. Companies may also not know what they are looking for if the US government has not caught up with and sanctioned the actors buying and selling the products for illicit purposes...

CNN sent emailed requests for comment last month to all the companies identified by the Ukrainians. The six that responded emphasized that they condemn any unauthorized use of their products, while noting that combating the diversion and misuse of their semiconductors and other microelectronics is an industry-wide challenge that they are working to confront.

“TI is not selling any products into Russia, Belarus or Iran,” Texas Instruments said in a statement. ” TI complies with applicable laws and regulations in the countries where we operate, and partners with law enforcement organizations as necessary and appropriate. Additionally, we do not support or condone the use of our products in applications they weren’t designed for.”

Gregor Rodehuser, a spokesperson for the German semiconductor manufacturer Infineon, told CNN that “our position is very clear: Infineon condemns the Russian aggression against Ukraine. It is a blatant violation of international law and an attack on the values of humanity.” He added that “apart from the direct business it proves difficult to control consecutive sales throughout the entire lifetime of a product. Nevertheless, we instruct our customers including distributors to only conduct consecutive sales in line with applicable rules.”

Analog Devices, a semiconductor company headquartered in Massachusetts, said in a statement that they are intensifying efforts “to identify and counter this activity, including implementing enhanced monitoring and audit processes, and taking enforcement action where appropriate…to help to reduce unauthorized resale, diversion, and unintended misuse of our products.”

Jacey Zuniga, director of corporate communications for the Austin, Texas-based semiconductor company NXP USA, said that the company “complies with all applicable export control restrictions and sanctions imposed by the countries in which we operate. Military applications are not a focus area for NXP. As a company, we are vehemently opposed to our products being used for human rights violations.”

Phoenix, Arizona-based semiconductor manufacturing company Onsemi also said it complies with “applicable export control and economic sanctions laws and regulations and does not sell directly or indirectly to Russia, Belarus or Iran nor to any foreign military organizations. We cooperate with law enforcement and government agencies as necessary and appropriate to demonstrate how Onsemi conducts business in accordance with all legal requirements and that we hold ourselves to the highest standards of ethical conduct.”

Swiss semiconductor manufacturer U-Blox also said in a statement that its products are for commercial use only, and that the use of its products for Russian military equipment “is in clear breach of u-blox’s conditions of sale applicable to customers and distributors alike.”

Part of the following timelines

Ukraine: Global outrage over Russian invasion leads to sanctions, demands for businesses to divest

Ukraine invasion: Crucial role of tech companies highlighted after Russian 'act of aggression'