An Iranian official announced Tuesday that Russia, in a breach of contract, returned Iran’s advanced payment and accrued interest fees after refusing to deliver a minimum of five S-300 missile systems to Tehran. Manufactured and exported by Russia, the S-300 is an air defense system equipped to detect, track, and destroy incoming ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, or low-flying aircrafts up to 90 miles away. It is classified as one of the most advanced and lethal missile systems available on the market and suspected by the CIA to be desired by Tehran as a resource to protect its nuclear facilities against future air strikes.
The termination of the $800 million contract, signed between the two states in 2007, has spurred Iran to file a complaint with the International Court of Arbitration in an attempt to gain further compensation for its losses. However, despite criticism from Tehran, Moscow has justified its final decision to rescind its contractual obligation based on UN Security Council sanctions that explicitly ban the sale of eight categories of conventional weapons to Iran, including “missiles and missile systems”.
Russia’s advanced S-300 missiles.
UN Security Council Resolution 1929 implemented the sanctions prohibiting economic and military cooperation with Tehran in 2010 due to the rogue state’s controversial nuclear program and failure to comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s nuclear facility inspections. Yet, the contract’s recent annulment closes a loophole previously utilized by Russia, which challenged the sanctions for failing to incorporate the trade of defensive ground-to-air missile systems, such as the S-300, in text. Until now, the contract remained on freeze as the U.S. and Israel warned that the sale of the S-300 missile systems to Iran would significantly enhance the Islamic Republic’s military defense capabilities while shifting the military balance of the Middle East.
As President Obama engages in talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in an effort to discuss moving forward with bilateral relations, it will be imperative for both leaders to beware that as long as the Islamic Republic continues to further its uranium enrichment production, a grave threat to regional and global stability endures.