Russia Ready to Discuss Arms Contracts with Iran

Russian Su-30SM fighter jet. Iran is said to be interested in acquiring the aircraft to update its Air Force. Source: Russian Ministry of Defense

The Russian government is ready to proceed with negotiations on arms sales to Iran.

At the Dubai Air Show, the director of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, Dmitry Shugayev, said, “The Russian side is ready to discuss with Iran cooperation in this sphere on condition that practical implementation of the projects…starts only after international restrictions are lifted.”

He noted that Iran is interested in a range of different equipment, including fighter jets, helicopters, tanks, naval vessels, coastal missile batteries, aircraft engines, armored vehicles, submarines, and spare parts to service existing equipment. 

Russian media has previously indicated that Iran might spend as much as $8 billion on the purchase of military equipment from Russia. However, given economic challenges facing Iran at present stemming from the United States’ decision to leave a nuclear accord and reimpose sanctions it is not certain that Iran would make such a large purchase all at one time.

Currently, Iran is under an international arms embargo. The embargo will last until October 2020 under an agreement Tehran struck with world powers in 2015 in regards to its nuclear program. Earlier this month, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani heralded the end of the embargo next year as “a huge political success.

Because of the embargo, Iran has not been able to import most military systems, forcing it to rely on its own defense industry to maintain its military’s readiness a task the industry has struggled to carry out successfully.

Some systems are not subject to the arms embargo. In 2015, Russia lifted its unilateral hold on the sale of S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran and subsequently concluded a deal with Tehran over the system, which is not included in the international embargo. 

Moreover, Shugayev noted that nonlethal equipment has been sold to Iran. He said, “We continue fulfilling contracts that do not fall under the UN sanctions on delivering repair and diagnostic equipment, radio monitoring tools, radio reconnaissance systems, and other kinds of non-offensive weapons.”

Once the embargo is lifted, Russia will be in an ideal position to reach arms deals with Iran. The country may also turn to China for the supply of some military hardware.

About Derek Bisaccio

Military markets analyst, covering Eurasia, Middle East, and Africa.

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