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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Aid to Iran Heralds New Trend

COMBINED REPORTS


A Russian airplane loaded with humanitarian aid for the people of Iran's northern regions, who are recovering from a devastating earthquake, has arrived in Tehran, Interfax reported Monday.


The flight's cargo, which included some 4,000 wool blankets and 2,000 warm jackets, was financed by the state-run arms manufacturer Rosvooruzheniye, Interfax said.


Analysts said that the humanitarian mission highlights the growing interest of Russia's arms vendors in the Middle Eastern country and that it heralds new trends in this delicate region of Russia-Iran relations.


An Israeli newspaper published an article Monday asserting that, during talks in Moscow at the beginning of March, President Boris Yeltsin suggested to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel financially compensate Russia if the latter agreed not to sell missile technology to Iran.


According to Rosvooruzheniye, Russian-Iranian military contracts amount to about $1 billion.


Under an agreement with the United States, Russia must carry out all of its obligations to Iran under existing military contracts by 1999 and sign no subsequent deals.


Moscow has not officially questioned this agreement with Washington.


However, representatives of some Russian government structures, including those related to arms exports, occasionally hint that the situation might change after 1999.


"It is quite possible that after 1999 Moscow will not renounce arms exports to Tehran, especially given that Iran's neighbors, in particular in the Persian Gulf, carry on with massive arms purchases," said Ruslan Pukhov, an independent analyst.


"Given that the United States obviously has no intention of selling arms to Iran, Moscow has a real opportunity to maintain military-technological cooperation with Tehran, which needs it," Pukhov said. "Also important is that the Iranian side pays for arms supplies with cash and oil."


Russia is supplying Iran only with defensive arms, a source in the Foreign Ministry told Interfax. "We are not selling Tehran rockets, bombers or some other offensive arms," the source was quoted as saying.


However, a report Monday in the independent daily, Haaretz, would seem to contradict this assertion.


The newspaper reported that, at a meeting with Netanyahu in early March, Yeltsin admitted for the first time that Russia was considering a deal to supply Iran with the technological know-how for SS-4 surface-to-surface missiles.


Instead of selling the medium-range weapons to Iran, an avowed enemy of Israel, the Russian president suggested that Israel offer "comparable compensation," Haaretz reported.


The sale -- the financial value of which is unknown -- would be a violation of an international agreement, to which Russia is a signatory, restricting the dissemination of such information.


The Iranians hope through the purchase of the Russian know-how to complete their own Zilzel-3 missile.


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