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Why Russia and China side with Iran and refuses to extend UN arms embargo on it?

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Last week, Russian authorities voted down the extension of United Nations-approved arms embargo on Iran, which is expected to expire in October 2020.

Last week, Russian authorities voted down the extension of the United Nations-approved arms embargo on Iran, which is expected to expire in October 2020. The embargo to prevent the sale of weapons to the Islamic Republic was imposed as part of the 2015 Nuclear Deal. The nuclear agreement proposed that if Iran struck the deal for five years, it would take down the embargo allowing the country access to the international arms market.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, who is looking forward to the lifting of the UN-imposed ban, said that it would prove to be ‘a huge political success’ for Iran. Rouhani said, “When the embargo…is lifted next year we can easily buy and sell weapons…This is one of those important impacts of this (nuclear) agreement. By remaining in the deal, we would reach a huge political, defensive and security goal (in 2020) … It would be a huge political success.”

However, it is not clear if the ban would expire or not, given the change in dynamics. US withdrew from the deal in May 2018, as it found the agreement biased towards Iran. US reimposed sanctions on Tehran’s oil exports, in response to Iran’s breach of nuclear capacity limit as per the deal.

US tried to exert maximum pressure on Iran, through sanctions, to curb its nuclear activities, while other parties to the deal, including Russia, China and European powers, tried both to curb Iran from pursuing nuclear programs and to save the landmark accord, but in vain (though formally it’s still in existence).

The US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, in his speech earlier this year, warned that lifting the ban and allowing weapon sale to Iran would mean unleashing the country ‘to create new global turmoil’.

To reimpose the embargo the US needs more than sanctions, i.e. favoring vote from members nations of the accord. Much to its relief, the European powers, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom supported the extension and forming of a broader deal to curb Iran, after the investigative reports concluded that Iran was behind the oil-tanker attacks, US drone attack and missile attack on Saudi Aramco.

Despite these alarms, Russia and China preferred to side with Iran and announced that they would not support the reimposing of the UN arms embargo. The two have signed a multiple-million dollar with Tehran and are expected to supply it new fighter aircraft and tanks. The two view Iran as a major customer for their weapons and hardware, including fighter jets, submarines and air-defense systems.

In a recent interview, Ruslan Pukhov, head of the Center of Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a defense consultancy in Moscow, confessed that the ending the ban on military sales to Iran “is important for Russia as it will bring it closer to Iran and opens up the world’s last big untapped weapons markets.”

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Raybkov told the Interfax news agency (in an interview published on 27 December), “We are not ready to do the bidding of our American colleagues. They can just come up with something else next time.”

As per the US Defence agency report, released in November this year, Iran is trying to set ties with Russia and China to meet its military supplies. Iran is looking to strengthen its military capability and to proliferate arms to its regional hotspots, such as Lebanon and Yemen, in order to grow its influence in the region.

Iran is expected to sign a $10 billion deal in the near future to import weapons from Russia. Iran’s potential buys include Russian Su-30 fighters, Yak-130 trainers, T-90 tanks, S-400 air-defense system and Bastion coastal defense systems.

As far as China is concerned the communist nation is already supplying conventional arms and technology to Iran for its CBW program, though pledged to halt support to Iran’s ballistic missile and civilian nuclear programs. Besides, Beijing also held joint operations with Iran’s naval forces in international waters.

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