WHY RUSSIA WILL STRENGTHEN MILITARY POWER OF IRAN

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Despite protests from the US, Moscow did not give up military contacts with Tehran, but also decided to develop them.

According to experts, the 25-year rearmament program adopted in Iran is mainly oriented at purchase of armament from Russia, and can earn over $7 billion for the Russian treasury. Experts add that Iran is primarily interested in supplies of the modern SAM systems S-300PMU-1 and S-300PMU-2 Favorit, as well as tactical theater air defense systems Buk M1 and Tor-M1. This interest is understandable because American airplanes keep trespassing the airspace of Iran. This interest is especially noticeable now, when Americans are preparing a retaliation operation.

Meanwhile, Americans penetrated Iranian airspace back during the Desert Storm operation in the Persian Gulf, but the Iranian government did not protest. What has changed? Why does Tehran now feel more confident?

Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani answered this question. After signing of the military-technological collaboration with Russia in Moscow, Shamkhani announced that his country issued the first warning to the US Air Force regarding trespassing of the national airspace, and stated that Tehran would take response measures against such actions.

Iran made such a statement because it is probably convinced that the country would receive modern air defense weapons soon (or may be already received under the contracts signed between 1989 and 1990 back in the Soviet times), and its Armed Forces would be able to cope with American airplanes.

Tehran warned the US and outlined its stance, which from now on would rely on Russia’s support.

There are many common international goals for Moscow and Tehran. During his visit to the Russian capital the Iranian Defense Minister announced that Iran refused to support any operation of the American military and warned that deployment of American forces in the region might lead to unpredictable results. Tehran does not approve any large-scale combat operations against Afghanistan, and armed forces of the country would observe the military and political events in the region.

Shamkhani emphasized that “it is necessary to reveal the roots of terrorism and to destroy these roots and not to damage the people.” He added that the entire international community should decide whether to deliver strikes on bases of terrorists. “If the decision about the strikes is made in the framework of the UN, Iran will naturally support it,” said the minister.

It is known that Russia sticks to a similar position. Russia announced that it opened its airspace for American aviation only for humanitarian purposes.

The goals, which Russia and Iran pursue with regard to the political future of Afghanistan, represent another important aspect. Both Moscow and Tehran support the Northern Alliance.

During his visit to Brussels last week Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov announced that Moscow “considers possible participation of Iran in this way or other in the antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan very important.”

Mass media already reported that Iranian Defense Minister Shamkhani discussed an opening of the second front of the anti-Talib coalition forces in western Afghanistan during his visit to Moscow. It is possible that Russia will deliver the old T-55 tanks and armored personnel carriers and ammunition via the Caspian Sea to Iran and then to Afghanistan for allies from Tajiks and other allied tribes (Baluchis, Hazara).

It is quite clear that such plans are mainly conditioned by the fear of Moscow regarding re-division of the spheres of influence in Afghanistan and Central Asia after the war and strengthening of American positions there. Motives for military collaboration between Russia and Iran in the Caspian Sea are also similar. Although the views of the countries do not always coincide with regard to the problem of the Caspian Sea division, Moscow and Tehran are against the military presence of other countries in the region. Such a tendency is quite realistic. For example, after the incidents between Azerbaijan and Iran related to the disputed oil fields, Turkish military airplanes flew to Baku, and Ankara hinted that it was prepared to provide military assistance to Azerbaijan in protection of the territorial integrity of the country.

American airplanes flying from Turkey via Armenia, Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan and Central Asia flew above the Caspian Sea. Russia and Iran are very much concerned about this fact because the US is attempting to control the airspace near the region rich with hydrocarbons when the status of which is undefined. It is possible that this very circumstance was the reason for the statement of the Iranian ministry that flights of American airplanes above the Iranian territory would not be tolerated, because Tehran considered a part of the Caspian Sea to be its territory.

This way or the other, Moscow and Tehran entered a new phase of their relations. These relations may be characterized as an alliance. The countries define tasks and goals for their military and political actions in Afghanistan in cooperation. They are against large-scale combat operations in the territory of this country, are interested in the victory of the Northern Alliance, and are against the military presence of the third countries in the Caspian Sea.

Of course, the US and its allies will not like this alliance. Meanwhile, it is unknown which response steps Washington will take. The US already published a list of Russian companies with which Washington would have no economic relations because of their contacts with Iran. It is difficult to say if this attitude will be applied to the whole of Russia. However, it is possible that the US will adopt a harsher attitude towards Iran, which it still considers to be an enemy and rogue state.

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