Russia may sell Iran $10 billion worth of tanks and jets in new arms deal

Roland Oliphant — The Telegraph.co.uk Nov 14, 2016

Part of the Russian S-300 system seen during an April 17, 2016, parade in Tehran

Part of the Russian S-300 system seen during an April 17, 2016, parade in Tehran. Click to enlarge

Russia is in talks with Iran over a $10 billion arms deal in which Moscow would provide advanced tanks, artillery systems, planes and helicopters to the Islamic republic.

The nascent deal would further cement an alliance between Moscow and Tehran that is likely to prove a major stumbling block for any rapprochement between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, who has vowed to rip up a nuclear agreement with Iran that the Kremlin supports.

“These talks are ongoing, the ground has been prepared, the portfolio amounts to around $10 billion,” Viktor Ozerov, an MP who heads the security and defence committee in the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house, told Russian reporters during a trip to Tehran on Monday.

T-90 tanks during a rehearsal for the Victory Day parade in Red Square in central Moscow, May 7, 2015. Click to enlarge

T-90 tanks during a rehearsal for the Victory Day parade in Red Square in central Moscow, May 7, 2015. Click to enlarge

He gave few details about the order, but said it would include Russia’s mainstay T-90 tank.

The United Nations partially lifted an embargo on sales to Iran following the conclusion of a landmark agreement to limit Tehran’s nuclear capabilities in 2015.

However, until 2020 deliveries of conventional weapons must be approved by the United Nations Security Council, which could present a hurdle to any new contract.

“Obviously the US and its allies will block these deliveries, but we will continue these talks,” Mr Ozerov said.

The new sale comes after Russia delivered long-promised S-300 air defence systems to Iran.

Moscow had originally promised to sell the missiles to Iran in 2007, but froze the sale under pressure from the West.

Vladimir Putin ordered the sale to go ahead after the interim nuclear agreement was signed last year, and the first complete units were delivered in August.

Mr Ozerov said all Iran’s S-300 units would be battle-ready by the end of the year.

Russia and Iran have a troubled history, but they have emerged as de-facto allies on a number of issues in recent years.

The two countries are fighting side-by-side in Syria, where both have deployed troops in support of Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Mr Trump, the US-president elect,  has described the nuclear framework agreement with Tehran as the “worst deal ever negotiated” and has vowed to rip it up.

Sergey Ryabkov, a deputy foreign minister, said on Monday that Russia’s support for the Iran deal “has not changed,” indicating that it would oppose any attempt to re-negotiate it.

Su-35. Click to enlarge

Su-35. Click to enlarge

Russia has increased arms sales in recent years as it seeks to earn foreign currency and support potential allies in its confrontation with the West.

A year ago it signed a $2 billion contract to deliver 24 advanced SU-35 jets to China, ending a decade-long unofficial moratorium on sales of hi-tech weaponry to Beijing because of fears over technology piracy. The first four jets are expected to be delivered by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, Iran and China announced an agreement to hold joint military drills and cooperate in fighting terrorism.

Gen Hossein Dehghan, the Iranian defence minister, and Chang Wanquan, his Chinese counterpart, signed an agreement on closer military ties on Monday, Iranian state television reported.

In addition to the joint military training exercises, the report said that Iran and China seek to “create a collective movement to confront this threat” of terrorism.

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