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Moscow Pledges to Continue Weapons Sales to Tehran

Moscow Pledges to Continue Weapons Sales to Tehran

Russia, Iran, US edge closer to conflict as arms embargo expiration date approaches

Russian Ambassador to Iran Levan Dzhagaryan says his country will have “no problem” selling advanced weapons to Iran immediately after the expiration of the arms embargo currently in place. Yet military and diplomatic analysts told The Media Line that Russian interests go far beyond any limited weapons deal in the Persian Gulf.

“We have said since the very first day that there will be no problem [selling arms to Iran] from October 19,” Dzhagaryan told the Tehran-based Resalat newspaper on Saturday, stressing that Moscow is not intimidated by recent actions and “threats” made by the United States.

“We have provided Iran with S-300. Russia does not have any problem delivering S-400 to Iran and it did not have any problem before either,” the ambassador said, referring to the Russian-built anti-aircraft missile systems.

Russia wants to set things straight. Iran has already begun talking about its intentions to acquire weapons after the embargo ends, so Russia wants to ensure it’s from them

Zvi Magen, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv and a former Israeli ambassador to Russia, told The Media Line that Russia’s declaration “isn’t anything new, and is not out of character.

“This is secondary to the larger triangle, which is the United States-Iran-Russia relationship,” Magen explains, emphasizing that Moscow was opposed to the embargo on the Islamic Republic from the beginning and that “despite their differences in Syria,” Russia needs Iran close by its side in its confrontation with the US.

“Russia wants to set things straight. Iran has already begun talking about its intentions to acquire weapons after the embargo ends, so Russia wants to ensure it’s from them,” he says.

Col. (res.) Ehud “Udi” Evental, a senior fellow at the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, agreed that the ambassador’s declarations were not a revelation, but said Iran may not have the resources to go through with its stated plans.

“These systems can cost over a billion dollars,” Evental told The Media Line. “So it remains to be seen if Iran can fund this purchase,” he says, noting that the systems discussed for the potential deal, while described by Russia as solely defensive in nature, could easily be deployed in offensive postures and could anyway serve to embolden Iran in the pursuit of nuclear weapons, in defiance of global opposition.

“But there is more to this than the military aspect,” Evental stresses. “This is a diplomatic achievement. Iran is declaring to the world: ‘We’ve broken the embargo, we’ve defeated American efforts.’”

In recent weeks, the US has tried to pass a number of resolutions in the United Nations Security Council, meant to extend the arms embargo on Iran that is set to expire in two weeks, and also to reimpose sanctions on the Islamic Republic that were lifted as part of the 2015 nuclear deal. Both attempts were roundly rejected by the council members, including by some of the US’s closest European allies.

Yet last month, Washington announced it considered all sanctions to be back in place. “The US expects all UN member states to fully comply with their obligations to implement these measures,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on September 19. “If UN member states fail, the US is prepared to use our domestic authorities to impose consequences for those failures and ensure that Iran does not reap the benefits of UN-prohibited activity.

“The return of sanctions today is a step toward international peace and security,” Pompeo added.

“The US has declared it will impose sanctions on anyone doing business with Iran, and also secondary sanctions,” says Evental. “That’s a significant tool. I think Washington can still coalesce a like-minded coalition of European partners that will prevent Iran from acquiring weapons, and Russia from selling weapons.

The return of sanctions today is a step toward international peace and security

“Europe doesn’t really want the embargo to expire,” he says, adding that relations between European countries and the US have been “poisoned” by the latter’s efforts in the UN to trigger the “snapback” clause of the nuclear deal, which if successful would essentially collapse the entire deal. “That, Europe would not accept,” Evental concludes, describing current relations between Europe and Washington as “very toxic.”

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