Russia Finds an Eager Weapons Buyer in Iran

Iran may be under United Nations sanctions for nuclear arms technology, but Russia has recently sold Tehran new conventional weapons. This week, Moscow said it has completed deliveries of anti-aircraft missiles — and it is ready to sell more arms to Iran.

Iran may be under United Nations sanctions for nuclear-arms technology, but Russia has recently sold Tehran new conventional weapons. This week, Moscow said it has delivered anti-aircraft missiles to the country.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov announced the fulfillment of Moscow's billion-dollar deal with Iran to reporters on Tuesday.

"We have supplied modern, short-range TOR-M1 anti-aircraft missile systems in accordance with our contracts," he said. "Iran is not under international sanctions."

The deal has angered Washington, which accuses Iran of being the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. Tehran, which is suspected of developing a secret nuclear arms program, is also under U.N. sanctions against atomic materials and technology.

But that hasn't stopped Russia from building a nuclear power plant in Iran, which says it's only interested in atomic energy for peaceful purposes.

Defense Minister Ivanov said this week that Moscow may supply Tehran with more weapons in the future.

"If Iran wants to buy defensive, I underline defensive, equipment for its armed forces," Ivanov said, "then why not?"

Tehran's recently acquired TOR-MI missiles are highly advanced battlefield weapons mounted on armored vehicles. They were designed by the Soviet Union to protect tank and infantry formations in a conflict with NATO forces in Europe.

Pavel Felgenhauer, a leading defense analyst, says the missiles are offensive, not defensive weapons.

"This is a serious development," Felgenhauer said." It gives the Iranians military possibilities if they can sort of believe that they can withstand to some extent American air supremacy in any kind of clash on the battlefield."

Iran isn't the only U.S. opponent Russia supplies with weapons. Moscow became the largest arms supplier to developing countries last year. Its biggest customers are India and China. But Russia also sells arms to countries like Venezuela and Syria.

Israel has accused Syria of supplying Russian rockets to Hezbollah — something Moscow denies.

The United States recently enacted sanctions against the main state arms export company, Rosoboronexport, and other Russian arms companies. But the growing standoff looks set to worsen strained relations between the two countries.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.