MOSCOW, September 11 (RIA Novosti) – Two senior Russian lawmakers called Wednesday for additional shipments of “defensive weapons” to Iran if Washington proceeds with planned airstrikes against Syria, while unconfirmed rumors swirled that the Kremlin was working toward a new agreement on deliveries of missile defense systems to Tehran.
“If the ‘party of war’ wins out in the USA and the efforts by Syria’s enemies … bring results, I find it absolutely justified … for Russia to consider more serious measures, including expanding supplies of defensive weapons to Iran,” said Alexei Pushkov, who heads the foreign policy committee of parliament’s lower house, the State Duma.
Such a proposal was initially made by Pushkov’s deputy, Communist lawmaker Leonid Kalashnikov, but was voted down by the Duma, which passed a resolution on Syria late Wednesday. However, Pushkov said the initiative could be brought back for a revote if the US does indeed attack Syrian government targets, which it is considering doing in retaliation for the suspected use of chemical weapons – an allegation Damascus denies.
Earlier in the day, the Kommersant newspaper reported, citing unnamed Kremlin sources, that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered the drafting of a new agreement to supply Iran with state-of-the-art Antei-2500 missile defense systems, a modification of the S-300 systems that Moscow agreed to sell Iran in 2007 before freezing the deal in 2010.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RIA Novosti the president had not ordered any concrete work on an S-300 deal; however, he told Kommersant that Putin would discuss both military and nuclear issues with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, on the sidelines of an upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Kyrgyzstan.
Moscow froze the original S-300 deal in 2010 under then-President Dmitry Medvedev, after the UN Security Council passed a resolution banning certain arms exports to Iran. The change of heart prompted a $4 billion lawsuit by Tehran against Russia’s state-run arms exporter, Rosoboronexport, in a Geneva court.
Military sources have told RIA Novosti that Russia has been trying to persuade Iran to drop the suit and sees this as a necessary prerequisite for any new deal to proceed, whether it involves S-300s or some other defense system like the Tor or Pantsir. The sources have asked not to be named as they are not authorized to speak publicly on the topic.
Kommersant linked any intensification of Russia-Iran talks on arms supplies and nuclear power to the current situation in Syria, as Moscow and Tehran are both seen to be de facto allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad.