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Opinion: Iran’s first acquisition after the deal | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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In this November 2, 2006 file photo, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps fire missiles during a war game in a desert near the holy city of Qom, southeast of Tehran. (Reuters/Fars News)

Iran’s first acquisition after signing the draft nuclear deal, amid promises to lift sanctions, were not cars, airplanes, refrigerators, or women’s purses–but rather long-range missiles! Iran was overjoyed after acquiring S300 missiles that the Kremlin has agreed to send this summer. But the Russian statement angered countries in the region that had warned about the consequences of the nuclear deal struck in Lausanne earlier this month, which would see military and economic sanctions on Tehran being lifted. The deal, which at this time is nothing more than a framework agreement, has already led to further militarization of the region and increased tensions.

One wonders what is the reason behind Russia’s concern and rush to send missiles to Iran, especially given that deal between the P5+1 group of nations and Iran has not been finalized yet.

Does the Kremlin want to woo Iran and ensure Tehran doesn’t turn toward the United States after the expected reconciliation?

Do the missiles symbolize part of the conflict between Russia and the West in Ukraine, and thus, President Vladimir Putin is seeking to widen the circle of unrest for the West and its allies?

Or is this merely a business deal? The Middle East has become the largest market for the purchase of arms in the world, perhaps Russia just wants to expand its share in it?

By selling such missiles, Russia is urging the countries of the region to search for better and more advanced weapons. The Russian defense ministry stated that it will give the Iranians an upgraded version of the S300 missiles at a cost of no more than 1 billion US dollars to straighten ties with Iran after letting it down in the past. Russia had already collected the 1 billion US dollars from Iran, but had failed to ship the merchandise following the imposition of international sanctions.

Strategically, the missile deal may not change Iran’s regional power, but it will surely have a subsequent effect. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not stop at reading the morning papers, but he actually called the Russian president to complain about the deal. Many Arab groups consider the missile deal as evidence that the nuclear deal has only increased Iran’s aggressiveness and not brought the region closer to peace.

As for the Gulf states, they have different calculations than Israel. Israel has the nuclear and conventional power to destroy Iran in a day in the event of a war. Whereas the Gulf is growing weaker as Iran strengthens its defenses with Russian missiles. In their defensive strategy against Iran, Gulf countries primarily rely on aerial weapons and rockets in the event of any external threat. The S300 missiles may weaken the ability of the Gulf’s main force, as Gulf air power had significantly outstripped Iran’s in the past.

The deal between Russia and Iran is connected to the growing skepticism regarding the US pledge to defend the Gulf, increasing the tense situation in the region. Some may wonder: Why don’t we have a peaceful outlook and hope that Iran, after gaining military confidence with the nuclear and Russian missile deals, will be more relaxed and stop spreading turmoil across the region?

This has always been an aspiration among the Arabs. However, realities on the ground are different. We know that Iran won’t take part in dialogue-when possessing all these powers-just for peace. In fact, Tehran’s appetite for chaos will only increase after it realizes that it has neutralized Western countries from intervening in the region. At this point, it will have enhanced its defensive force, taking advantage of the international military and economic sanctions being lifted. Tehran’s leaders believe that the region has become an open map for the first time since the Sykes-Picot Agreement, and that borders can be adjusted to suit Iran’s own interests.