Is Russia preparing to sale S-400 air defense missile system to Iran?

MOSCOW, (BM) – The Russian leadership is considering selling anti-ballistic missile defense (ABM) to Iran after the assassination of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Kassem Suleymani in the region against the backdrop of the assassination of the Quds forces commander.

The fact that part of the Russian military and political elite really has such thoughts was once again demonstrated by the statements of the LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky. The reaction to his emotional appearances, as a rule, gives the Kremlin ground for analysis.

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The fact that the Islamic Republic should have concluded an agreement on military-technical cooperation (MTC) with the Russian side, Zhirinovsky said at his press conference.

The head of the liberal democrats said that the Russian General Staff should “offer Iran to conclude an agreement on military cooperation and urgently sell the most modern weapons for money so that no one dares throw anything in the direction of Iran.”

Zhirinovsky expressed confidence that the S-400 and S-500 systems could “close the entire sky over Iran.”

“I offered the leadership of Iran – buy our more powerful missile defense systems, S-400, S-500,” – said Zhirinovsky. – “Open military bases, as in Syria, air force, naval, land. They do nothing!”

The words of the LDPR leader in many ways may indicate that the Russian authorities are considering a scenario with the sale of the latest technology to Iran, or at least probing a possible external reaction to the prospects of this kind of deal.

In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Defense Intelligence Agency (RUMO) stated: Iran expects to purchase Su-30 fighters, Yak-130 training aircraft and T-90 tanks from the Russian Federation. In addition, Tehran “showed interest in purchasing the S-400 and Bastion complexes from Russia.”

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The capabilities of the Iranian authorities are currently significantly limited by the current UN arms embargo, which should end in the fall of 2020 – in the event that the UN Security Council lifts it. There are doubts on this score, however, even if the taboo on weapons for Iran continues, the prohibition system has its own loopholes.

Russia took advantage of such a loophole when it decided to deliver the S-300 air defense system to the Iranian side – solely for defense purposes and solely to stimulate the negotiation process on the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan (JCPOA). So, at least, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov argued for the supply.

“The S-300 anti-aircraft missile system is exclusively defensive in nature, it is not adapted for the purpose of the attack and will not jeopardize the security of any state in the region,” the minister said in 2015. – “For Iran, which is located in the volatile Middle East region, the modern air defense system is very, very relevant now, especially taking into account the sharp escalation of tension in the space surrounding it.”

However, there was evidence that in 2019, Russia did not respond to official requests from the Iranian side regarding the purchase of S-400. This was reported by Bloomberg, citing unnamed Russian officials. The refusal was motivated by fears for the situation in the Middle East region.

The head of the Moscow Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, Ruslan Pukhov, then in this regard noted that a real or imaginary strengthening of Iran could lead to escalation. According to him, if the Russian Federation really rejected such a request from Iran, “this means that it wants to develop relations with Saudi Arabia and Israel and save a chance for negotiations with Trump.”

The analyst is convinced that if the Russian side decides to deliver S-400 to Iran, this will be a direct challenge to Moscow’s Middle Eastern partners.

Nevertheless, the situation is changing and US force methods may push Russia to make an emotional decision and provide the “victim of aggression” with everything necessary to prevent a confrontational scenario.

For the time being, it should be recognized that the military-technical cooperation with Iran makes Russia a convenient target for international pressure. This has already happened in the case of the tragedy of the passenger liner of Ukraine’s International Airlines, which was hit by a rocket near Tehran.

On January 14, Ukrainian Ambassador to the USA Volodymyr Yelchenko said that those who gave the order and, possibly, those who supplied these missiles should be responsible for the crash. Yelchenko believes that there are “many components”, including the alleged “Russian footprint” in the form of the “Tor” anti-aircraft missile system. In this regard, he stressed, it is necessary “to talk about a certain international responsibility.”

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