Russia has revealed plans to continue with a long-delayed sale of surface to air missiles to Iran and the creation of an oil-for-goods swap program. This news comes in the wake of the Iran nuclear talks where eventual lifting of sanctions was discussed. President Putin signed a decree ending the ban on the sale of the S-300 missile system to Iran. A sale of S-300 surface-to-air missiles was discussed in 2007 but strong objections from the United States and Israel led to the sale being suspended by then-President Medvedev in 2010. Russia is one of several nations looking to take advantage of possible business deals with Iran as Iran seeks to bolster their economy and military. Russian Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov maintains that even if Iran was still covered by UN sanctions, the S-300 missile system is a defensive weapon that poses no threat to Iran’s enemies. That may be the case, but with Iran increasingly becoming more bold in its operations throughout the Middle East, the mullahs are likely to sleep easier knowing their nuclear weapons development sites may soon have an extra layer of security.
Iran has already stepped up support for its proxy Hezbollah as well as Hamas as of late. Israeli intelligence officials have noticed a marked increase in arms supplies coming in from Iran to the two groups. With the recent Iran deal, Israeli officials fear that Iran will have the funding and capability to give even more aid to Hezbollah in order to keep Israel busy in their own backyard. Most troubling are statements made by General Amir Ali Hajizadeh last year where he claimed that Hezbollah had significantly improved their missile capabilities and that Hezbollah could allegedly strike anywhere in Israel. Of course, Iran has a long history of making over exaggerated and unverifiable statements, but their increasing support for Hezbollah is self-evident. Furthermore, Hezbollah was sighted moving missiles to Lebanon at about the same time General Hajizadeh made his comments. January’s attack on an IDF convoy near Har Dov, where Hezbollah militants launched a missile and mortar strike on the convoy, may yet be a preview of worse things to come.
Iran is in a position where they can take a defensive state back home and bolster their air defenses while keeping their enemies abroad on their toes via proxy action, as seen in Yemen and Lebanon, all of which helps in the effort to buy time for the completion of their nuclear endeavor.