• The UN Security Council resolution was adopted a few days after the expiry of the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.
  • This could prompt Russia to seek ballistic missiles from Iran as attacks on Ukraine intensify.
  • Iran has not yet delivered these missiles to Russia, but their defense relationship is expanding.

A day before UN restrictions on Iran’s import and export of ballistic missiles and armed drones expire on October 18, Russia said it was no longer legally obligated to abide by such restrictions.

The declaration shows that Moscow may seek to replenish its supplies with Iranian-made ballistic missiles. This could have consequences for Ukraine as it prepares for another winter of Russian missile and drone attacks on civilian and military infrastructure.

UN Security Council Resolution 2231 it was adopted in July 2015, a few days after the US-Iran agreement nuclear agreement with Iran. (The EU, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China also signed the agreement). The resolution prohibits Tehran from exporting or importing missiles and drones with a range exceeding 300 km and a payload exceeding 1,100 pounds – limits suggested by the Regime’s Missile Technology Control – until October 2023.

The United States and European signatories of the nuclear deal decided to maintain sanctions on Iran’s missile program, primarily because Tehran violated some terms of the agreement after Washington withdrew in 2018. They were also angered by Iran’s decision to arm Russia with Shahed-131 and -136 unidirectional missiles attack drones.

Iran – Shahed-136 Shahed-131 drones

Shahed-136 (left) and Shahed-131 drones on display at the IRGC facility in Tehran in October.

Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images

There are constant speculations about Iran supplying Russia short-range ballistic missilesor SRBM, but this would almost certainly trigger the imposition of reverse sanctions under the resolution, and Tehran has not yet done so. (After the expiration of the ballistic missile ban, previous multilateral sanctions could be reimposed under the Article 2231 sunset clause, which valid until 2025.)

Nevertheless, an October 17 statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry suggests that Moscow may seek Iranian short-range ballistic missiles to strengthen its arsenal for another winter of attacks on Ukraine.

“Supplies to and from Iran of items subject to the Missile Technology Control Regime no longer require prior authorization from the UN Security Council,” statement he said.

Russia continues to produce its own missiles and drones, but continued attacks on Ukraine are straining its supplies. Last winter, when Moscow began using Iranian drones, it launched 1,000 of them in six months, and in September alone, Russian forces launched about 500 drones against Ukrainian targets, new record.

If Moscow now acquires Iranian SRBMs, Ukraine could face unprecedented pressure, but there are still doubts whether these missiles will end up in Russian hands.

Iranian Zolfaghar Basir Dezful ballistic missiles

Iran’s Zolfaghar Basir, top and Dezful short- and medium-range ballistic missiles in Tehran in January 2022.

Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images

“Frankly, I don’t think that the lifting of final sanctions under the UN resolution will have a significant impact on the ability to deliver Iranian ballistic missiles to Russia,” said Anton Mardasov, a nonresident research fellow at the Middle East Institute’s Syria program.

While Moscow needs “as many precision weapons as possible,” it also “doesn’t want to become completely dependent” on Tehran, Mardasov told Business Insider. Russians are also hesitant to antagonize Israel or the Gulf countries by forging a strategic military alliance with their main regional rival.

“Unexpected decisions are possible, but for now I am skeptical about Iran’s ability to deliver the Zolfaghar SRBM and other missiles to Russia,” Mardasov said, naming the Iranian missile with a range of just over 600 km.

Resolution 2231’s ban on arms imports or exports from Iran expired in October 2020. Since then, especially after the start of the war in Ukraine in February 2022, there were many indications that Iran expected to receive two dozen Su-35 fighters from Russia. Iran may also hope that in exchange for exporting drones to Russia and helping to build them, Moscow will license the production of other Russian military equipment in Iran.

Despite the “political games” surrounding the Su-35 contract, Mardasov expected it to be implemented “in the medium or even long term,” but said Moscow was less willing to export armored vehicles or helicopters to Iran due to demand on its defense industry to replenish Russia’s military stocks.

The underground base of the Iranian F-4 fighter

Iranian officials at an underground air base in February.

Iranian Army/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In October, Russia admitted that the war was putting a strain on its arms industry and that the needs of its own army were a priority. Therefore, Moscow has proposed a new format for arms exports, including more significant technology transfers.

Head of the Russian state arms company Rosoboronexport he said On October 19, technology partnership agreements with foreign countries will offer “opportunities to launch full-scale production on their territory and develop their own industrial base.”

Rosoboronexport has long licensed Indian production of a tailor-made version of the Su-30 fighter, the Su-30MKI. Were reports Iranian interest in producing Su-30 aircraft under license. Tehran may also want to build later models of T-72 and T-90 tanks under license.

Farzin Nadimi, a defense and security analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said a “range of technological exchanges” with Russia is Tehran’s “preferred method” that Moscow has not previously offered.

“Iran has long dreamed of having its own production lines for fighter jets and main battle tanks, but whether such perceived cooperation will extend to missile/missile technology, we will have to wait and see,” Nadimi told Insider.

Paul Iddon is a freelance journalist and columnist writing about events in the Middle East, military affairs, politics and history. His articles have appeared in various publications devoted to the region.


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