Tehran The decade-old United Nations arms embargo on Iran that prevented it from purchasing foreign weapons such as tanks and combat aircraft ended on Sunday as planned under its nuclear deal with world powers, despite objections from the United States.
While Iran insists that it is not planning a “buying spree”, it can theoretically buy weapons for the pre-Islamic military modernization of 1979 and sell its domestically produced equipment abroad. In practice, however, the Iranian economy remains crippled because US sanctions and other countries may avoid arms deals with Tehran for fear of US financial retaliation.
The Islamic Republic has heralded the end of the arms embargo as “a very important day for the international community … in defiance of the efforts of the American regime.” Meanwhile, the Trump administration insisted that it re-impose all United Nations sanctions on Iran through a clause in the nuclear agreement from which it withdrew in 2018, A claim ignored by the rest of the world.
“The normalization of Iranian defense cooperation with the world today is a victory for the cause of pluralism, peace and security in our region,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter.
The United Nations banned Iran from purchasing major foreign weapons systems in 2010 amid tensions over its nuclear program. A previous ban targeted Iranian arms exports.
The US Defense Intelligence Agency predicted in 2019 that if the embargo ends, Iran will likely try to purchase Russian Su-30 fighter jets, Yak-130 training aircraft, and T-90 tanks. The Interior Ministry said that Tehran may also try to purchase the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system and the Bastian coastal defense missile system. China could also sell weapons to Iran.
Iran has long defeated the Gulf states supported by the United States such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have bought billions of dollars in advanced American weapons. In response, Tehran has moved towards developing indigenously designed ballistic missiles.
Iran has criticized the Arab Gulf states’ purchases of US-made defense equipment, describing them as “unfortunately profitable arms deals” with some of those weapons used in the ongoing war in Yemen. The conflict pits a Saudi-led coalition supporting the country’s internationally recognized government against the Iran-backed rebel forces.
But the UN arms embargo has not stopped Iran has switched from sending weapons ranging from assault rifles to ballistic missiles to the Houthi rebels in Yemen. While Tehran denies arming the Houthis, Western governments and arms experts have repeatedly linked Iranian weapons to the rebels.
Six Arab Gulf states have supported the extension of the arms embargo They cited arms shipments to Yemen in their objection to the resumption of any arms sales to Iran. They also mentioned in a letter to the United Nations Security Council that Iran accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airliner in January And the Its naval fleet accidentally killed 19 sailors in a missile attack during training. The United Nations has also linked Iran to The 2019 attack on the main crude oil refinery in Saudi ArabiaAlthough Tehran denies any links to it, the Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility.
Sunday also coincided with the end of the travel ban imposed by the United Nations on several members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and its paramilitary forces.
Tensions between Iran and the United States reached their peak at the beginning of the year, when a US drone aircraft killed a senior Iranian military commander in Baghdad. Tehran responded with a ballistic missile attack on US forces in Iraq, wounding dozens. Meanwhile, Iran has steadily broken the borders of the nuclear deal in an effort to pressure Europe to salvage the deal.
In recent months, provocations from both sides have slowed as President Donald Trump faces his re-election campaign against former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden said he was prepared to offer Iran a “credible path back to diplomacy” if Tehran returned to “strict compliance” with the agreement.
Associated Press writer John Gambrel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report.
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