Iran awaits giant arms boost
THE END of international sanctions on Iran will be the cue for nations and companies to begin signing major arms deals with a country looking to renew its military hardware.
A joint statement between Iran and the EU is expected in the coming days — perhaps as early as this weekend — to declare “implementation day”. The announcement will signal that the West is satisfied that Iran has met its obligations to limit its nuclear programme and that the nuclear-related UN, EU and US sanctions will be removed.
On Monday, the Iranian media reported that the core of the nuclear reactor in Arak had been removed and refilled with concrete — although two days later an official denied the move.
Removing the core of the Arak reactor would ensure that it can not produce weapons-grade plutonium and amount to a major milestone in Iran’s journey to meet its obligations under the agreement. Other steps that are yet to be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency include shipping of 10 tons of enriched uranium out of the country, to Russia, and disconnecting 13,000 of its enrichment centrifuges. The moves are designed to put Iran at least a year away from developing a nuclear weapon, should it decide to “break out”.
The removal of sanctions and unfreezing of Iranian assets is expected to give the country a much-needed injection, estimated at over $100bn. A sizable chunk of the cash is earmarked for modernising the country’s military.
Iranian generals have been in Moscow and Tehran in recent months planning a massive purchase of Russian arms, expected to be worth around $20 billion and to include advanced Sukhoi30 fighter-bombers, T-72 and T-90 tanks and Yakhunt naval cruise missiles.
While it will still take years for Iran to receive the new weapons systems and upgrade its military, of more immediate concern are the funds that will be available to the Iranians to support and arm its proxies in the region, chief among them Hizbollah in Lebanon.