Pentagon warns Iran will seek advanced weapons as embargo expires


Iran will seek out new fighter jets and tanks from Russia and China when an international arms embargo expires in October 2020, a senior defense intelligence official told reporters on Tuesday.

Tehran is expected to “go after fighters” as “their current air force is dated,” the official said at the Pentagon.

In addition, the country will aim to procure battle tanks as they have not built or been able to acquire such a vehicle for years, officials said.

“Iran remains reliant on countries such as Russia and China for procurement of advanced conventional capabilities,” according to a report released the same day by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

The lifting of the United Nations embargo will allow Iran “to purchase new advanced weapon systems from foreign suppliers to modernize its armed forces, including equipment it has largely been unable to acquire for decades,” the report adds.

The embargo in question – which dates back to the 1979 Iranian revolution – will expire next year, as stipulated in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal.

While President Trump pulled the United States from the nuclear deal last year, administration officials have pressed the UN to keep the embargo from expiring and keep advanced weapons out of Iran.

The new DIA report, titled “Iran Military Power,” found that the nation is interested in acquiring the Russian S-400 air defense system, the same system that Turkey took delivery of this summer. That purchase prompted the Trump administration to oust the NATO ally from the F-35 fighter jet program over fears that the Russian system would be used to glean sensitive information from the aircraft if used concurrently.  

Tehran is also looking into the Bastian coastal defense systems from Russia, as well as Moscow’s Su-30 fighter jets, Yak-130 trainer jets and T-90 Main Battle Tanks.

“Iran is already evaluating and discussing military hardware for purchase primarily from Russia and, to a lesser extent, China,” the report states.

The report also described unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones, as “Iran’s most rapidly advancing air capability.”

Iran uses the drones for a variety of missions, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and air-to-ground strikes, with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force as the primary operator of the growing fleet.

Tehran has been blamed for several drone-involved attacks in recent months, including a Sept. 14 attack on two Saudi oil refineries – which were hit by drones and cruise missiles – and the downing of a U.S. surveillance drone in June.

The United States has pushed back against such actions with sanctions on Iran, as well as shows of force in the Gulf region.

The most recent such show came on Tuesday, when the U.S. aircraft carrier strike group Abraham Lincoln sailed through the Strait of Hormuz, according to a Navy statement.

The official said Tuesday that Iran’s top goal is to deter attacks on its homeland and “be able to project its power and influence in the region and secure that dominant regional presence that they seek to have. Partially because it provides them strategic depth but also advance their interests a little bit more.”

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