Iran announced the end of the arms embargo on Sunday, “a significant day for the international community … despite the efforts of the US regime”.
A decades-long arms embargo by the United States against Iran, which banned it from buying foreign weapons such as tanks and fighter jets, expired on Sunday as planned under its nuclear deal with the world powers, despite objections from the United States.
Iran, while insisting that no “buying frenzy” is planned, can theoretically buy weapons to upgrade military armament prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution and sell its own locally produced equipment overseas. In practice, however, the Iranian economy remains crippled by far-reaching US sanctions, and other nations may avoid arms deals with Tehran for fear of American financial retaliation.
The Islamic Republic announced the end of the arms embargo as “a significant day for the international community … despite the efforts of the US regime”. The Trump administration, meanwhile, has insisted that it reasserted all United States sanctions against Iran through a clause in the nuclear deal it withdrew from in 2018, an assertion that is being ignored by the rest of the world.
“Today’s normalization of Iran’s defense cooperation with the world is an asset to the cause of multilateralism and peace and security in our region,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter.
The United Nations banned Iran from buying major foreign weapons systems in 2010 amid tensions over its nuclear program. A previous embargo related to Iranian arms exports.
The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency forecast in 2019 that if the embargo ended, Iran would likely try to buy Russian Su-30 fighter jets, Yak-130 trainer planes, and T-90 tanks. Tehran could also try to buy Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft missile system and its Bastian coastal defense missile system, the DIA said. China could also sell Iranian weapons.
Iran has long been outdone by US-backed Gulf states like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have bought billions of dollars in advanced American weapons. In response, Tehran turned to the development of locally manufactured ballistic missiles.
Iran has blown up US-made defense purchases by the Gulf Arab as “regrettably lucrative arms deals” with some of the weapons used in the ongoing war in Yemen. In this conflict, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia enters into which the internationally recognized government of the country supports against the rebels supported by Iran.
However, the United States arms embargoes did not prevent Iran from sending assault rifle weapons to the Houthi rebels in Yemen via ballistic missiles. While Tehran denies arming the Houthis, Western governments and weapons experts have repeatedly linked Iranian weapons to the rebels.
Six Gulf Arabs, who supported the expansion of the arms embargoes, saw arms shipments in Yemen as they protested against the resumption of arms sales to Iran. A letter to the United States Security Council also mentioned that Iran mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane in January and accidentally killed 19 sailors in a missile attack during an exercise. The United States of America also linked Iran to an attack on Saudi Arabia’s main crude oil refinery in 2019, despite Tehran denying any links and Yemen’s rebel Houthis taking responsibility.
Sunday also marked the end of United States travel bans on a number of members of the Iranian military and the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.
Tensions between Iran and the US reached fever earlier this year when an American drone killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad. Tehran retaliated with a ballistic missile attack on US forces in Iraq that injured dozens. In the meantime, Iran has steadily exceeded the limits of the nuclear deal in an effort to pressure Europe to save the deal.
Provocations on both sides have slowed in recent months as President Donald Trump faces a re-election campaign against former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden has said he is ready to offer Iran “a credible path back to diplomacy” if Tehran returns to “strict compliance” with the deal.
Associate press writer Jon Gambrell from Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report.