Russia suspends Iran arms sale following Israeli PM's visit to Moscow
Russia decided to delay the delivery of S-300 air defense missiles to Iran a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow. The delay is expected to further strain relations between Moscow and Tehran.
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Netanyahu said it was clear to him after his meeting with Putin that the Russian prime minister was interested in quiet and stability in the region, and does not want that balance to be broken.
“Russia understands the Iranian problem, and that is obvious even more so today,” Netanyahu said.
AFP reports that “Russian media have speculated that Israel could agree to stop selling arms to Moscow's foe Georgia in return for a Russian agreement to block the S-300 sale to Iran, which the Jewish state sees as its main threat.”
Russia has joined the US and France in criticizing Iran’s nuclear program. The three countries on Tuesday issued a statement to the International Atomic Energy Agency stating, "Iran's enrichment of its LEU (low-enriched uranium) stockpile to higher levels is not only unnecessary, but would serve to further undermine the confidence of the international community in Iran's actions," according to the Telegraph. The three powers also urged China not to block tougher United Nations sanctions against Iran.
Meanwhile, China’s position on tougher nuclear sanctions against Tehran remains a “mystery,” reports AFP.
Calls have risen within the US to impose sanctions against Iran's Revolutionary Guard and on Iranian oil exports. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, Russia has been supplying arms to Iran since the late 1990s, with transfer agreements ballooning from $300 million between 1998 and 2001 to $1.7 billion between 2002 and 2005.
Some analysts see a quid pro quo in place: Iran does not object to Russian interference in the predominantly Muslim Caucasus, while Russia refrains from agreeing to UN sanctions against Tehran. “However, for both parties, cooperation is driven as much by fear and mistrust as it is by opportunism and shared interests,” wrote [Michael Eisenstadt, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Military and Security Studies Program] in a March 2001 Arms Control Today article.