Iran’s first acquisition after the deal

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 this month, intending to lift military and economic sanctions on Tehran. The deal, even before finally being sealed, has already led to further militarization of the region and increasing tensions.

One wonders what the reason was behind Russia’s concern and rush to send missiles, especially that the finalization of the deal between the P5+1 and Iran is expected in about eight weeks.

Wooing Iran?

Does the Kremlin want to woo Iran so it doesn’t turn toward the United States after the subsequent reconciliation?

Do the missiles symbolize part of the conflict between Russia and the West in Ukraine, and thus, President Vladimir Putin wants to widen the circle of turbulence for the West and its allies in their areas of influence?

Tehran’s appetite for chaos will surge because it has realized it has neutralized Western countries from intervening after freezing its nuclear program

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Or is it merely a business deal? The Middle East has become the largest market for the purchase of arms in the world. Russia wants to expand its share in it. By selling such missiles, Russia is urging the countries of the region to search for better and stronger weapons. The Russian defense ministry stated that it will give the Iranians an upgraded version of the S300 missiles at no more than $1 billion to straighten ties again with Iran after letting it down. Russia had already collected the $1 billion from Iran, but had not shipped the merchandise back then.

Not moving closer to peace

Strategically, the missile deal may not change Iran’s regional power, but it will surely be important and influential. 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 considered the missile deal as evidence that the nuclear deal “has increased Iran’s aggressiveness has not brought it closer to peace.”

As for the Gulf states, they have different calculations than Israel. Israel has the nuclear and conventional power that can destroy Iran in a day in the event of any war. Whereas the Gulf has become in a weaker position 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 its air power had been significantly better than Iran’s previous missiles – which the Gulf will continue to rely on to deal with any potential Iranian attacks from land or sea.

The deal between Russia and Iran is connected to the growing skepticism regarding the U.S. pledge to defend the Gulf, thereby boosting regional pressures. 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 in the region? This has always been an aspiration among the Arabs. However, realities on the ground are different. We know that Iran wouldn’t take part in dialogue - while possessing all these powers - just for peace. Tehran’s appetite for chaos will surge because it has realized it has neutralized Western countries from intervening after freezing its nuclear program. It has enhanced its defensive force, taking advantage of the international military and economic ban on it being lifted. Tehran's leaders believe that the region has become an open map for the first time since the Sykes-Picot agreement, and the borders can be adjusted to suit Iran’s own interests.

This article first published in Asharq al-Awsat on April 18, 2015.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

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