Iran Plans $8 Billion Arms Deal with Russia

Iranian military officials announced Monday that they plan to purchase $8 billion worth of arms from Russia, the latest sign of growing economic and military ties between the two countries in the wake of the nuclear deal signed last year.

Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan and other senior defense officials have spent the last two days in Moscow, presenting to the Russians what the state-run Fars News Agency called a “shopping list” of military hardware requests. Dehghan told Iranian reporters before he left that Iran needs to “seriously focus on its air force and fighter jets.” The Russian state-funded news site Sputnik reported that Iran has requested Russia’s new Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter jet, which is used for air-to-air and air-to-surface combat. Iran also requested light attack aircraft and transport helicopters, as well as mobile coastal defense missile systems, frigates and submarines. The Russian business daily Kommersant reported that Iran was also considering asking for Russia’s help in repairing its largely Russian-made fleet of planes and submarines.

The nuclear deal led to the cancellation of a UN Security Council arms embargo on Iran, though bans on selling offensive missile systems remain in place. The Russian news agency Interfax reported that Iran’s new shopping list included Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft defensive missile system. Iran and Russia have talked for years about purchasing the S-300 system, its predecessor, despite American objections that the missiles could be used offensively. Russia has already installed the S-400 system at its base in Syria.

Since the nuclear deal was signed, Tehran and Moscow have repeatedly made military overtures. The two countries held joint naval exercises in the Caspian Sea in August. Qassem Suleimani, the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Iran’s elite extraterritorial militia, has repeatedly been seen in Moscow despite being subject to an international travel ban. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu held talks with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran last month. Russia has also reportedly been supplying the Iran-backed terror organization Hezbollah with advanced weaponry, including laser-guided rockets and anti-tank weapons.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew claimed last April that “Iran is expected to use new revenues [from the lifting of sanctions] chiefly to address those needs, including by shoring up its budget, building infrastructure, maintaining the stability of the rial, and attracting imports,” rather than funding terrorism. President Barack Obama said in a speech at American University in August that “our best analysts expect the bulk of this revenue to go into spending that improves the economy and benefits the lives of the Iranian people.”

[Photo: Alex Beltyukov / Wikimedia]