Russia and Iran Have Found a Weapon of Rapprochement

September 11, 2013
The S-300 | Dmitry Korobeinikov, RIA Novosti

Kommersant publishes this article, claiming that Russia will go ahead and deliver the S-300, a powerful anti-aircraft system, to Iran. However, Interfax news agency has published an article which disputes this claim. Their source says that the delivery of the modified S-300 system can’t be excluded, but that no plan has yet been put into motion.

Still, the Kommesant article has many details that might suggest otherwise, and the translation of the original is noteworthy – Ed.

Kommersant has learned that the Russian Federation has made a fundamental decision to meet Iran’s wishes halfway on two key issues – regarding deliveries to Iran of the S-300 modified anti-aircraft defense system and construction of a second nuclear power plant in Bushehr. According to a source close to the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered to begin development of both agreements. They will discuss details on Friday in the course of Putin’s first meeting with the new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

According to Kommersant’s source, on 5 September, Putin made two fundamental decisions on Iran. The first was conditioned by the need to resolve the conflict with Tehran around the anti-aircraft defense system. As Kommersant had predicted (see 22 June issue), Russia will deliver to Iran five divisions of S-300VM Antei-2500 anti-aircraft systems (the modified export version of S-300V system). A key term of the deal: Tehran must withdraw the lawsuit against Rosoboroneksport [Russian government arms export agency] for $4 billion for breaking the previous contract.

The contract to deliver to Iran the five divisions of S-300s (the PMU-1 modification) at a cost of approximately $800 million was signed in 2007. Three years later, the UN Security Council passed a resolution on Iran which introduced sanctions against Tehran, including a ban on the transfer of modern weaponry. In September 2010, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree on measures to comply with this resolution, introducing tougher sanctions against Iran than were stipulated in the UNSC resolution. In particular, the contract on the delivery of the S-300s was cancelled. Iran filed suit against Rosoboroneksport in arbitration court in Geneva. Russia proposed a concession, promising new deliveries of the Top M1E anti-aircraft defense system (see Kommersant of 8 June), but such a substitute did not suit Iran.

It is anticipated that Tehran will agree to the delivery of the Antei-2500, however. “This complex is even better for Iran than the S-300 PMU1 – it is more effective in defeating rockets,” Vladimir Yevseyev, director of the Center for Social and Political Research told Kommersant. “And if a strike is made against Iran, then the rockets will go into motion first of all. So the Antei-2500 is a perfect fit for the purposes of Iran’s defenses.” The Antei-2500 systems do not formally fall under Medvedev’s decree about restricting military and technical cooperation with Iran, says Yevseyev.

Iran’s envoy to Russia, Amb. Seyed Mahmoud Reza Sajjadi indirectly confirmed to Interfax that Tehran was ready for such a compromise. “If there is some other anti-aircraft defense which could cover our territory within the framework of a common plan, and if the price and the delivery times were suitable, we could display some flexibility,” he said.

Putin’s second assignment concerns cooperation in the nuclear energy sphere; according to Kommersant’s source, Moscow is prepared to sign an agreement with Tehran to build a second nuclear energy plant in Bushehr. Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad expressed keen interest in such a deal during the course of his recent visit to Moscow. According to Kommersant’s source, for Russia, the project “is not particularly profitable from the economic perspective – it’s more political.”

Putin intends to discuss both topics with the new Iranian President Rouhani on 13 September during his first meeting on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Bishkek. Dmitry Peskov, press secretary of the Russian president made the caveat that in the Kremlin “they do not provide details of the agenda of forthcoming negotiations,” but nevertheless confirmed for Kommersant that both topics will be discussed during the meeting between Putin and Rouhani. “The cooperation in the nuclear energy sphere will be discussed, including in the context of the Bushehr nuclear power plant – that topic cannot be avoided,” he said, adding that “questions of military technical cooperation are also on the agenda.”

According to experts’ assessments, a serious basis for the rapprochement of Moscow and Tehran is the commonality of their views on the situation in Syria. “We have ended up in the same boat. Strategically, we see the future of Syria differently, but tactically both countries oppose the intervention of the USA,” says Yevseyev. The experts believe another important factor for increasing cooperation is the aggravated conflicts between Russia and the West, above all with the USA. “

At the last G20 meeting, Vladimir Putin comported himself in his role as host in a deliberately non-confrontational manner. But the summit passed and now he can speak his mind and recoup his losses – both for the cancelation of the Moscow summit with the Americans and for their harsh criticism of Russia’s positions on Syria, Vladimir Orlov, president of the Center for Russian Political Research told Kommersant. “The meeting with the new president of Iran is very timely here,” he added. In fact, the expert specified, that the intensity of the rapprochement with Iran will largely dependent on how things go with the USA for Russia.