Iran is likely to capitalize on the expiration of an international arms embargo in 2020 to purchase new warships, submarines and cruise missiles, according to a new assessment by the US Office of Naval Intelligence.
The February report noted that, with restrictions on conventional arms sales under the 2015 nuclear deal ending in 2020, Tehran will be able “to pursue foreign acquisitions that have been inaccessible since sanctions were imposed on Iran’s nuclear program.”
The report said Iran sees its naval forces as critical to warding off threats, and its defense strategy is thus highly focused on the development of its navy.
“Acquisitions will continue along established trends with an emphasis
on smaller, faster [vessels], equipped with sophisticated weaponry, and acquired in large numbers,” it assessed.
The Islamic republic will likely seek submarine-launched anti-ship cruise missiles and new torpedoes.
“After 2020, Iran may look to foreign acquisitions of ships and submarines with a wide array of weapons suites. Reportedly, Iran has entered into negotiations with Russia to acquire the SS-N-26 Yakhont coastal defense cruise missile, as well,” the report said.
Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said the Nasir missile, which he described as Iran’s latest submarine launched cruise missile, “successfully hit its target” during its test launch, the official IRNA news agency reported.
The most recent Iranian missile firings follow the launches of a ballistic missile and cruise missile in late January — both of which are nuclear capable — with the former resulting in new US sanctions on a number of entities involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program and a warning from US President Donald Trump that the Islamic Republic had been “put on notice” and that “nothing is off the table” in terms of a military response to perceived Iranian provocations.
In January the outgoing Obama administration said that on the one-year anniversary of the implementation of the nuclear deal, Tehran was seen to be “upholding its commitments” under the accord.
The White House said the deal had achieved “significant, concrete results,” such as subjecting Iran to an intrusive inspection and verification program, reducing its uranium stockpile by 98 percent and dismantling more than two-thirds of its centrifuges.
The accord paved the way for Iran to reenter the international finance system, freeing up Iranian assets estimated to be worth $100 billion to $150 billion, although the administration insisted that figure is, in reality, much lower. In April 2016, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Iran had received, by then, roughly $3 billion.
Israel, and particularly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was a vociferous opponent of the accord and lobbied to thwart it.
President Donald Trump has been a harsh critic of the deal and vowed to dismantle it throughout his campaign. Since being elected, however, his top advisers have signaled that Trump will not withdraw from the deal unilaterally unless Iran violates its terms.
Defense Secretary James Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee in his confirmation hearing that the United States should honor its commitment to the deal.
Despite it being an “imperfect arms control agreement,” he said, “when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.”