Russia Agrees to $1 Billion Arms Deal with Iran
MOSCOW – Russia has agreed to sell more than $1 billion worth of missiles and other defense systems to Iran, Russian news media reported Friday, a move expected to draw a heated reaction from the United States.
The Interfax and ITAR-Tass news agencies cited unidentified sources in the Russian military-industrial complex as saying that Russian and Iranian officials had signed contracts in November that would send up to 30 Tor-M1 missile systems to Iran over the next two years.
Interfax said the Tor-M1 system could identify up to 48 targets and fire at two targets simultaneously at a height of up to 20,000 feet.
The news agency quoted its source as saying the two countries had reached a deal on modernizing Iran's air force inventory, as well.
The deal was also reported in the Vedomosti newspaper, which cited an unidentified manager at a military-industrial enterprise as saying Russia would provide Iran with 29 Tor missile systems that had originally been manufactured on orders from Greece.
The state arms export agency, Rosoboronexport, said it had no information on the reported deal.
No Iranian officials were immediately available for comment Friday, a weekly holiday in the country. There were no reports in the Iranian media about the deal.
While the conventional weapons deal would not violate international agreements, it was likely to elicit an adverse reaction from the United States.
"I expect that Russia's decision to supply the complexes to Iran will meet a negative reaction from the West, but this criticism will be of a political rather than legal character," Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, was quoted by Vedomosti as saying.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States had not yet validated the news reports.
Russia, a key Iranian ally, has resisted U.S.-led efforts to bring Tehran before the U.N. Security Council over its alleged nuclear weapons program, insisting that the disputes be resolved through the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
Russia is also building a nuclear reactor in the Iranian city of Bushehr.
Israel considers Iran to be its biggest threat, and doesn't believe Tehran's claims that its nuclear program is peaceful. Israeli concerns were heightened recently after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged that Israel be "wiped off the map."
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said he was unaware of the reported deal between Russia and Iran, but said it would harm regional security.
"When a country hopes to strengthen the military potential of Iran, they are serving to strengthen the most negative elements in the region," Regev told The Associated Press in Jerusalem.
On Friday, Israel carried out a successful test of its Arrow missile defense system, intercepting and destroying a missile similar to Iran's long-range Shahab-3.