Foreign Policy Blogs

Russian Missile Sale and Iran’s Rearmament

Russian Missile Sale and Iran’s Rearmament


The debate has begun on the gains and losses by all sides concerning the deal inked on Iran’s nuclear future. Concerns from Sunni Arab nations and Israel over Iran’s involvement in various proxy wars throughout the region were met with detailed explanations of how Iran’s ambitions will change as a result of the deal. Although opposing perspectives have polarized the debate over the issue, the sale of arms and ballistic missiles to Iran by Russia will likely become the first point of contention linked directly to the text of the deal.

As part of the agreement, an arms embargo will remain in place against selling weapons to Iran for five years. An additional embargo will prevent ballistic missile technology sales for eight years. Russia, which entered into a contract to sell its S-300PMU-1 anti-aircraft missile system to Iran in 2007 but suspended it shortly thereafter because of U.N. sanctions, recently re-instated that contract. In April 2015 Russia offered to sell Iran the S-300VM/Antey-2500. While U.S. government officials presume that arms restrictions will continue to deter the sale of the S-300VM to Iran, Russian officials say otherwise and have claimed that the sale will continue despite these restrictions. Indeed, on July 14, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that despite the embargo’s five-year extension, “arms shipments to Iran are possible upon completion of the relevant notification and verification procedure at the U.N. Security Council.”

The Obama administration is intent on keeping its adversaries in the process while satisfying the concerns of its traditional allies in the region, promising financial and military support if required. Bipartisan criticism of the deal involving the arms embargo has focused on S-300 deal, and many U.S. officials assume that Russian and Chinese arms sales to Iran will not take place during the five year restrictive period.

With Russia’s change of heart before and its intention to still sell the S-300VM to Iran as early as late 2015, the last point of contention the U.S. had with Iran may seem fruitless if systems like the S-300 can still be put up for sale. Legitimizing the effectiveness of the arms embargo will be a difficult narrative to push if the Obama administration is unable to stop the sale of the S-300VM with a U.N.-backed arms embargo in place. After all, the Iran nuclear deal still has to pass through the U.S. Congress and Senate to become official, not to mention through different levels of the Iranian government.



Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration