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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iranian Arms-Shopping Spree Coincides With Sharon Visit

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon flies to Moscow this week for talks on the Middle East crisis and the defense minister of regional rival Iran arrives with a shopping list topped by state-of-the-art Russian arms.

Sharon, who arrives Monday, has announced no plans to meet Iran's Admiral Ali Shamkhani during their extended stays in the Russian capital.

Shamkhani's trip is about "military-technical cooperation," say officials. That is code for arms sales.

Ilya Klebanov, the deputy prime minister who oversees Russia's military-industrial complex, said Moscow had no plans to sell the Islamic republic offensive weapons, a reference to U.S. concern at Moscow's renewal of arms sales to Tehran. "In any event, conversations will only concern defensive weapons ? air defense and conventional weapons," Klebanov told Interfax.

An Itar-Tass commentary said Iran could spend $7 billion to $10 billion revamping its aging military hardware. Shamkhani was most interested in warplanes, attack helicopters, anti-aircraft missile systems and high-tech rocket systems.

Andrei Piontkovsky, director of Moscow's Centre of Strategic Research, said the simultaneous visits underlined the incoherence of Russian diplomacy.

"It does emphasize the promiscuity of Russian foreign policy," he said. Cosying up to Iran risked jeopardize a more important relationship ? that with the United States.

Independent defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer said both Iran and Israel had reasons to befriend Russia ? a turn-around from the Cold War era when the Soviet Union armed Israel's Arab foes and the Shah of Iran was a U.S. ally.

"For obvious reasons, Israel feels itself increasingly isolated and believes that Russia will be sympathetic. And Israel needs all the sympathy it can get right now," he said.

Iran wanted the right to produce weapons under Russian license, he said. Defense contracts could be worth up to $500 million annually for a number of years.