Iran to Seek Advanced Arms as UN Embargo Expires, Pentagon Says

(Bloomberg) -- Iran will seek to modernize its forces by purchasing advanced weapons systems once a United Nations arms embargo expires next year, the Pentagon is warning in a new report.

Iran wants to purchase weapons “it has largely been unable to acquire for decades” when the embargo expires in October 2020 in a compromise that’s part of the 2015 nuclear accord with world powers, according to an assessment released Tuesday by the Defense Intelligence Agency. Iran will be permitted to purchase weapons that it’s unable to produce domestically, such as advanced fighter aircraft and main battle tanks.

While U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear accord, his administration is pushing the international community to keep Iran from purchasing advanced weapons, arguing it will add to instability in the region. During a UN Security Council meeting in August, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo warned that the expiration of the embargo will unshackle Iran “to create new turmoil.”

“Because of the flawed Iran deal, the UN arms embargo on Iran will expire in one year,” Pompeo tweeted last month. “Countries like Russia and China will be able to sell Iran sophisticated weapons. The Iranian regime will be free to sell weapons to anyone. This will trigger a new arms race in the Middle East.”

Russian Weapons

Iran is already evaluating and discussing military hardware for purchase, primarily from Russia, but also to a lesser extent from China, the Pentagon report found. Iran’s potential acquisitions include Russian Su-30 fighters, Yak-130 trainers and T-90 tanks. Iran has also shown interest in acquiring the S-400 air defense system and Bastian coastal defense system from Russia, it said.

The report also highlights Iran’s growing use of unconventional tactics to deter large Western countries such as the U.S. Iran maintains an estimated inventory of more than 5,000 naval mines, which it can rapidly deploy in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz using high-speed small boats, it said.

It also warns that Iran’s forces are becoming “increasingly survivable, precise, and responsive.” It said the Islamic Republic’s capabilities, such as “swarms of small boats, large inventory of naval mines, and arsenal of antiship missiles” are a significant threat to maritime traffic in the Strait of Hormuz.

Kenneth Katzman, the primary Iran expert for the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, said the report reinforces a “growing consensus in the expert community that Iran is close to accomplishing its core national security goals -- the ability to project power in all corners of the region and thereby deter any regional or international actor from attacking Iran.”

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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