Iran awaits gi­ant arms boost

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY ANSHEL PFEFFER

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.

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