Iran can purchase tanks and jets after expiry of UN arms embargo

Finbar Anderson
·2-min read
A Russian T-90 tank fires during a training exercise near Moscow - AFP
A Russian T-90 tank fires during a training exercise near Moscow - AFP

Iran can once again purchase tanks and fighter jets after the expiry of a UN arms embargo on Sunday. 

The US had sought to keep the embargo in place amid concern that Tehran could now begin to build up its armed forces.   

The Islamic Republic will not, however, immediately begin a spending spree, according to a statement from he Iranian foreign ministry on Sunday. 

 “Iran’s defence doctrine is premised on strong reliance on its people and indigenous capabilities,” it said.

The US Defense Intelligence Agency predicted in 2019 that Iran would likely try to buy Russian Su-30 fighter jets, T-90 tanks and Yak-130 trainer aircraft once the embargo lifted. 

Tehran expressed an interest in the Russian tanks in 2016 but ultimately invested instead in a domestic alternative, the Karrar.  

The embargo, which was established in 2007, expired as per an agreement in the 2015 nuclear deal in which Iran, Britain, Germany, France, Russia, China and the United States sought to prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons in exchange for sanctions relief.   

“Today's normalisation of Iran's defence cooperation with the world is a win for the cause of multilateralism and peace and security in our region,” Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter.  

Tensions between Tehran and Washington soared after US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018, culminating in January when the US assassinated Iran’s top general Qassim Soleimani in a Baghdad drone strike.  

The Trump administration insisted in August it has re-invoked UN sanctions on Iran via a clause in the agreement, but the claim has largely gone ignored by the international community given Washington’s withdrawal from the deal. 

 At the time, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Russia and China with possible sanctions if they disregarded the US decision.  

Iran has been militarily outspent for years by Gulf rivals such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have purchased billions of dollars of US weaponry.   

There is concern in Iran that softening relations between Gulf nations and the US could unlock further sales.   

In September the UAE, Israel and Bahrain agreed a peace deal. An agreement over a possible deal for the sale of Lockheed Martin’s cutting edge F-35 fighter jet to the UAE was rumoured shortly afterwards, with Mr Trump saying he had ‘no problem’ with such a sale.