Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi’s visit to Russia has sparked fears in the Gulf that Tehran may seek major arms deals with Moscow. The Gulf states have called for decisive joint action to prevent Iran from receiving advanced weapon systems from Russia.
There is particular concern that Tehran could secure a major military deal during Raisi’s current visit.
Regional analysts say Gulf capitals need to be more active in efforts to block arms deals that would allow advanced Russian weapons to be shipped to Iran. They note that the Gulf States are exercising an important lever here with their investments and major economic deals with Moscow.
According to recent Russian reports, Iran is said to be coveting modern combat aircraft such as Su-35 fighters, air defense systems, radar stations and electronic warfare technology.
Iran says it wants to get advanced weapons from Russia because it urgently needs to confront Israeli attacks that could target sensitive locations, particularly nuclear facilities.
But Gulf analysts say that given the Russian-Israeli military agreements, Moscow cannot supply any third country, including Iran, with weapons that could threaten the security interests of the Jewish state. Therefore, they say, any Russian arms made available to Tehran are more likely to be used against other countries in the region, either directly or through Tehran’s proxy militias in places like Iraq, Lebanon, or Yemen.
Experts warn that Houthi attacks on oil facilities and civilian sites in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, such as the recent drone and missile attack on Abu Dhabi, could become a recurring threat should the Gulf states avoid potential Russian military supplies to Tehran to stop.
They add that this could alert Moscow that should Russia strike military deals with Iran, the Gulf states would take business elsewhere.
In their public appearances on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi sought common ground, focusing on their support for the Syrian regime and ongoing international talks over Iran’s nuclear program.
Welcoming Raisi at the start of their talks in the Kremlin, Putin noted that the joint efforts of Moscow and Tehran have played a key role in “helping the Syrian government to overcome the threats posed by international terrorism”.
Russia and Iran have joined forces to support Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and help his government retake most of the country after a devastating civil war.
Moscow has performed a delicate balancing act of maintaining ties with Iran while developing cordial ties with Israel, which sees Iran’s presence in Syria as a red line. In 2018, Russia struck a deal with Iran to bar its fighters from the Golan Heights to address Israeli concerns about Iranian entrenchment in Syria.