A nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany has been struck, binding Iran on limiting its nuclear activity in return for the lifting of international economic sanctions.
The lifting of sanctions is seeing rush of foreign companies, particularly European countries like Germany, France and Spain, while the American firms are at disadvantage as U.S. sanctions not related to nuclear deal are still in place. Iran offers plenty of opportunities, has world’s fourth-largest oil reserves, second-biggest stores of natural gas, with 80 million people, $400-billion economy and well-established manufacturing and agricultural industries.
The deal dictates that U.N. conventional arms embargo on Tehran could be lifted within five years and Import restrictions on ballistic missile technology could be lifted in eight years, subject to how quickly Iran complies with other tenets of the agreement.
The agreement in Vienna removes Iran’s nuclear weapon threat as US President Barack Obama said, “every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off for Iran.” However Many analysts see an arms race heating up in the Middle East as the tensions between Iran, Israel and the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) heighten.
In the last decade Iran, has rapidly overcome its reliance on of Russia, China, and North Korea for military developments and developed its own increasingly lethal deterrent capability. Since 1992, Iran has manufactured its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles, radars, boats, submarines, unmanned aerial vehicles, and fighter planes.
Perhaps Iran’s greatest deterrent capability is its ability to threaten oil shipments in the Strait of Hormuz, which roughly 20 percent of global oil supplies must transverse on their way to markets. It developed advanced naval mines, small but capable submarines, coastal defense cruise missile batteries, attack craft, anti-ship missiles and armed unmanned aerial vehicles.
Iran is still dependent on external help the aerospace sector, advanced submarines would be invaluable for Iran were it to try and close the Strait of Hormuz. European engines, particularly from Germany’s Limbach Flugmotoren, frequently appear on Iran’s drone shopping list.
In an attempt to make its military industries more sustainable Iran has also sought to export its military products. In spite of sanctions, Iran has supplied Iraq nearly $16bn of arms supplies. Reuters in February last year acquired evidence of $195m in Iranian weapon supplies including mortars, tank parts, artillery, night-vision goggles and wireless communications equipment.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a “stunning historic mistake” that would provide Iran with “hundreds of billions of dollars with which it can fuel its terror machine and its expansion and aggression throughout the Middle East and across the globe”.
US, to compensate Israel for this deal, has approved a $1.9 billion shipment of U.S. weapons that 250 AIM-120C Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles, 50 BLU-113 “bunker-buster” bombs capable of penetrating 20 feet of reinforced concrete, and 3,000 Hellfire anti-armor missiles.
Mr. Obama said in an interview that he plans to discuss with Israel, “How do we prevent Hezbollah from acquiring more sophisticated weapons? How do we build on the success of Iron Dome, which the United States worked with Israel to develop and has saved Israeli lives?” Iran has a substantial inventory of missiles capable of reaching targets throughout the region, including U.S. military bases and Israel, and the regime continues to develop more sophisticated missiles.
Israel may further need US’s new Massive Ordinance Penetrators, that Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter claimed to be able to destroy targets up to 200 feet below, including the Iranian nuclear program which has been concealed deep underground .
Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries
Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia, are skeptical of a diplomatic agreement with Tehran, however officially they say they’re studying it. The two powers are engaged in sectarian cold war within Islam, Sunni Saudi Arabia versus Shiite Iran.
Saudi Arabia, but also other GCC countries like Kuwait, Bahrain, and the UAE fear that more than $100 billion in unfrozen Iranian assets and an improved Iranian economy could further fuel the arming of the militant groups including Hezbollah in Lebanon, Shia groups in Syria and Iraq, and—allegedly—Houthi rebels who are the target of an ongoing Saudi aerial bombing campaign in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia has already become the world’s biggest importer of weapons and defensive systems, according to data revealed by the IHS Jane 360 in its Global Defence Trade Report, shows that Saudi Arabia spent over $6.4 billion on defense purchases in 2014.
The biggest “beneficiary of the strong Middle Eastern market” is the United States, with $8.4 billion worth of Middle Eastern exports in 2014, compared to $6 billion in 2013, said the report. Other countries that top the list of arms suppliers to the Middle East include the United Kingdom with $1.9 billion, Russia with $1.5 billion, France with $1.3 billion and Germany with $1 billion.
The heightened tensions and Iran’s formidable missile arsenal may also prompt Saudi Arabia and Gulf nations to purchase of advanced
American missile defense systems. U.S. missile defense system makers Raytheon and Lockheed Martin have already been active in the region—Raytheon has inked $5 billion worth of missile defense equipment contracts since December, a sizable chunk of that in the Middle East.
Pending arms deals also include a deal with Saudi Arabia for 10 Sikorsky MH-60R helicopters and associated equipment valued at $1.9 billion and another $1.75 billion transaction for up to 202 Lockheed Martin-built PAC-3 missiles. The UAE holds a contract for more than 1,000 laser-guided bombs built by Boeing and Raytheon worth $130 million. Additionally, another potential $900 million deal for a dozen of Lockheed’s High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and 100 rockets is also on the table.
Russia has long been Iran’s principal foreign arms supplier, Early this year Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu signed a military cooperation deal with Iran that provides for joint exercises and military training, as well as “cooperation in peacekeeping, maintaining regional and international security and stability, and fighting against separatism and extremism,”
Following Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s visit to Tehran this week, Russia announced that it will “probably” sell Iran the S-300.
The S-300 is a “highly capable, long-range surface-to-air missile” system consists of six launchers along with command-and-control and long-range radar detection vehicles. Each launcher carries six Russian-made 48N6E missiles with ranges up to 150 km and altitudes between 27-30 km. The S-300 can simultaneously track up to six targets and guide twelve missiles. S-300 would further bolster Iran’s deterrent capability with guarding high-value targets and its coastline.
On July 22, DEBKAfile revealed that Moscow and Tehran had concluded a giant transaction for the acquisition of a fleet of 100 IL78 MK1 (Midas) in-flight refueling planes for extending the range of its warplanes up to 7,300 km and able to refuel 6-8 planes at once.
From the 1990s to the early years of the 21st century, China had been an important source of military technology for Iran.
Before the five-year arms embargo against Iran expires, Beijing can make remarkable progress in arms trade with Tehran, such as exporting light and medium-sized military transport aircraft to the Middle Eastern country, because the embargo is confined to “offensive weapons,” said Vasily Kashin, a senior fellow researcher at the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, in a report published in the Russia-based Sputnik.
Iran is emerging as a large weapons market for China, with a bigger scale and more promising prospect than the Pakistan market. This is despite the fact that China is prohibited from selling offensive weapons such as FC-1 fighters, tanks, 155mm field howitzers, multiple market launchers, submarines and surface combatants to Iran, according to the report.
Iran is about to conclude a transaction with China for the purchase of the Chengdu J-10 multirole jet fighter, known in the West as the Vigorous Dragon, according to an exclusive report from DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources. Beijing has agreed to sell Tehran 150 of these sophisticated jets.
While the Chinese J-10 is comparable to the US F-16, our sources report that it is virtually a replica of the Lavi, the super-fighter developed by Israel’s aerospace industry in the second half of the 80s. Israel sold China the technology, after Washington insisted on Its discontinuing the Lavi’s production. The US also objected to the sale of the Lavi’s avionics, claiming that it contained some American components.
Iran has additionally weighing the purchase in Beijing of 250 highly-advanced Sukhoi-Su-30MK1 twinjet multirole air superiority fighters, known in the West as Flanker-H.
In the foreseeable future, western countries will continue refusing to supply weapons to Iran, making it imperative for Tehran to avoid undertaking military cooperation with only Russia or China, so as not to undermine its relationship with both powers, according to the report.