• 2020-10-26

    Because of Iran’s shattered economy, strategic culture, and generational commitment to asymmetric warfare, it is unlikely Tehran will seek to build a large conventional military force. To do so would put Iranian capabilities into the forefront and draw more attention to Tehran’s actions. Such a move would be more visible than, say, the acquisition of components to improve ballistic missile guidance and thus more likely to provoke Gulf Arab and U.S. countermeasures. Instead, Iran will do as it always has – seek to quietly develop asymmetric capabilities, ideally built domestically, and only purchase the few items that it cannot make hoping to counter key U.S. military capabilities. Iran will not field a major force of Russian tanks in the near term – instead, it will continue to direct militias while hoping to build ever-widening zones of exclusion to keep U.S. ships and airplanes at bay.

  • 2020-10-25

    Meanwhile, Israel also got a ‘bonus’ from the UAE — virtual consent to set up a full-fledged Mossad station in the Emirates. The extraordinary alacrity with which Israel demanded — and UAE meekly agreed — to a visa free travel regime has no other meaning than that Israeli spooks can now slip in and out of the Persian Gulf unnoticed. In normal curse, visa free travel comes at the fag-end of flourishing economic and business ties, and not to be front-loaded in a brand new relationship.  A Mossad regional station on Emirati soil will be hugely consequential because Israel is bent on destabilising Iran and overthrow Turkey’s president Recep Erdogan. Israel cannot tolerate any regional power with a potential to dwarf it in strategic capabilities. [...]  The big question for regional security in the period ahead is how the arrival of the F-35 in the Persian Gulf would play on the vanities of the Emirati Sheikhs who harbour huge ambitions to become the number one regional power in the Middle East. The UAE already has a military presence as far away as in Libya. It intervened in Yemen and currently occupies a strategic Yemeni island. It showed up in the Syrian conflict supporting al-Qaeda affiliates and other terrorist groups to overthrow the Assad government. It has links with Kurdish separatist groups. It has had close ties with the Taliban in Afghanistan. The UAE and Greece are building up close military ties, with Turkey in their crosshairs. The US promotes this strange relationship to counter Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean.

  • 2020-10-19

    Following the end on the 18th of October of the 13-year United Nations’ embargo on Iran buying or selling weapons, the roll-out of the military component of the 25-year deal between China and Iran will begin in November, as exclusively revealed by Oil Price.com. After a series of meetings in China on the 9th and 10th of October between Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Zarif, and his China counterpart, Wang Yi, this military component may now also feature the deployment in Iran of North Korean weaponry and technology, in exchange for oil, according to sources very close to the Iranian government spoken to by OilPrice.com last week. Most notably this would include Hwasong-12 mobile ballistic missiles, with a range of 4,500 kilometres, and the development of liquid propellant rocket engines suitable for intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or satellite launch vehicles (SLVs). This will all be part of a broader triangular relationship co-ordinated by Beijing and further facilitated by the imminent launch of a new digitised currency system by China.

  • 2020-10-19

    On October 18, the arms embargo imposed on Iran by the United Nations expired. The provision, which was part of UN Resolution 2231 (2015) that endorsed the Iran Nuclear Deal, expired five years after the resolution’s endorsement and a month after the failure of a U.S. attempt to extend its terms. There has been some speculation that China will rush in to export conventional weapons to the Islamic Republic. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s visit to Beijing two weeks ago no doubt set off alarm bells in Washington. China appears keen to maintain its reputation as a legitimate international player that abides by the rules. In July, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying stated, "China has practiced caution and responsibility in arms exports. And no one can criticize China for conducting regular arms trade with any country that does not violate international obligations." […] When it comes to trade, politics, and wider security, Chinese and Iranian interests can often align, but the partnership between the countries has not developed into a functional alliance. Certainly, the end of the UN arms embargo on Iran presents a long-term commercial opportunity for China’s defense industry. But in concert with both China’s ambitions and restraint in the region, it is unlikely that China will move to capitalise on the expiration of the arms embargo.

  • 2020-10-19

    Today, the apartheid state obtains 40 percent of its oil from Baku, leaving little to the imagination about its interest in the regional conflict. In order to protect those interests, Israel has become one of Azerbaijan’s largest arms suppliers in recent years, providing up to 61 percent of all Azeri arms imports this past year, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.  […] More importantly, Iran could also be dragged into a larger war and could hold the key to unraveling Israel’s geopolitical motivation for their significant involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Iran shares a common cultural heritage with Armenia, despite religious differences, and counts the Christian nation as a strategic partner. One day before the second cease-fire was supposed to take effect, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry accused Armenian forces of launching rocket attacks into Iranian territory as a provocation, which led the Iranian Foreign Ministry to issue a statement clarifying that “aggression against our country’s territories by any party” in the conflict would not be tolerated.

  • 2020-10-18

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran issued a factsheet on the arm-related transfer termination according to the UNSC Resolution 2231 that endorses the 2015 nuclear deal.

  • 2020-10-18

    No Washington-designed “maximum pressure” has been able to derail a crucial milestone this Sunday: the end of the UN arms embargo on Iran, in accordance with UN Security Council 2231, which has endorsed the 2015 JCPOA deal. […] The end of the arms embargo does not imply a renewed arms race in Southwest Asia. The real story is how the Russia-China strategic partnership will be collaborating with their key geostrategic ally. It’s never enough to remember that this Eurasian integration trio is regarded as the top “existential threat” to Washington. Tehran patiently waited for October 18. Now it’s free to import a full range of advanced weaponry, especially from Moscow and Beijing. 

  • 2020-10-16

    A broad range of political and financial problems are likely to prevent Iran from importing advanced weapons systems in the coming years. […] No doubt, Moscow and Beijing will sign arms deals with Tehran – and perhaps even major ones, such as those involving the Russian S-400 missile defence system, which Iran is eager to acquire. […] However, given precedent and a series of political and economic restraints, it is unclear whether these deals would result in delivery in the near future. […] A pressing concern for European capitals should be that, in the coming months, the Trump administration may deploy its unilateral sanctions on the arms trade with Iran to increase interdictions of Iranian vessels and cargo (including those in the Gulf, and even those headed to Venezuela). Some hawkish voices in Washington have even called for the US to impose a naval blockade on Iran, which would amount to an act of war. Such measures to ratchet up the pressure on Iran – as the Trump administration moves into a second term or its final months in office – could provoke a military clash between Iran and the US in the Middle East. These measures can quickly spiral out of control – as became apparent after the US imposed an oil embargo on Iran in 2019, and assassinated General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, early this year. European capitals should focus their immediate efforts on preventing such escalation and mitigating the threat to their interests in the region. Working with Moscow and Beijing to assuage US fears should be part of this. But Europeans should also reach out to various interlocutors in Washington, primarily the defence community, to reduce the likelihood of escalation with Tehran in the coming months – especially if the advent of a Biden administration provides an opening for a return to diplomacy in January.

  • 2020-10-16

    The Persian Gulf region will remain a yardstick for tense U.S.-Iran relations as well. Despite the official rhetoric, the strong possibility for escalation in recent months has reportedly made the Tehran regime’s top clergy very concerned, forcing IRGC commander Gen. Hossein Salami to publicly rule out any such eventuality, thanks to the IRGC’s very expensive “strong deterrent.” Meanwhile, the United States has conducted several assertive drills in the Persian Gulf, while avoiding measures elsewhere that could provide Iran with immediate justification for military escalation. For example, the United States has so far refrained from actively intercepting Iranian gasoline shipments to Venezuela, choosing “persuasive” methods instead. There are limits to this approach, however, as Iran’s continued gasoline lifeline to Venezuela has shown. The U.S. “maximum pressure” policy is unlikely to affect Iran’s overall military capability, given that the lifting of arms sanctions will hardly affect the arms markets. They will be seen as proof by regime hardliners, especially within the IRGC, that the United States is caught in a no-win situation and should either leave the region and relinquish the ability to fight Iran, or stay and be at the mercy of Iran’s accumulated power. Although the portrayal of an invincible front against the enemy is partly to boost morale in a country battered by economic hardship and the COVID-19 pandemic, that should not obscure the fact that, for an aggressively ideological enemy now assured of its military might, bending under pressure will not be an option.“

  • 2020-10-16

    Iran has denied media reports that its border guards have launched retaliatory attacks after rockets fired by Karabakh warring sides hit its border areas, but pledged to take action if such attacks are repeated. […] On Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tehran was ready to help find a sustainable solution to the ongoing dispute through a joint initiative with Russia and Turkey. During a Thursday phone call with his Azeri counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov, Zarif discussed the proposal that foresees the Islamic Republic, Turkey, and Russia boosting a standing Minsk Group that has failed so far to resolve decades of territorial dispute between Baku and Yerevan.

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