Putin to visit Iran to revive nuclear talks

Russian leader to offer Tehran sophisticated air defense system; trip to take place after Rouhani assumes office

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Tuesday, July 16, 2013. (photo credit: AP/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Tuesday, July 16, 2013. (photo credit: AP/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)

Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to travel to Tehran next month in a bid to restart nuclear talks, and reportedly offer Iran the chance to purchase a sophisticated missile defense system.

Putin is due to make the trip to Iran mid-month, after the President-elect Hasan Rouhani takes office on August 4, Russian Kommersant daily newspaper reported Wednesday.

The newspaper said an Iranian Foreign Ministry official had confirmed that Putin will arrive on August 12 or 13, but noted that Russian officials wouldn’t say when or how long the trip would be. Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency reported that Putin would travel by ship on the Caspian Sea from Russia.

Russia Today reported that part of the reason behind Putin’s trip is to “offer Iran to purchase S-300VM Antey-2500 air defense systems, according to defense industry sources.” The anti-ballistic missile and anti-aircraft system has an operational range of 200 kilometers and an estimated price tag of $120 million.

According to the Russian news site, the sale of S-300s is “meant to convince Tehran to revoke its complaint against Russia over the canceled deal to deliver five batteries of S-300 antimissiles, which was signed in 2007 but scrapped in 2010 when then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a law limiting Russia’s military cooperation with Iran.”

The system is considered a “game-changer” by some Israeli officials, who have lobbied against a similar sale to Syria in the works.

Iran’s president-elect regularly criticized his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his presidential campaign, and his victory was viewed it as a moderate turn for Iran and a rebuke of Tehran’s hard-line policies. Israeli officials, however, contend that Rouhani will have little actual policy-making power since that lies with the clerical regime headed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Last week Rouhani scoffed statements from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which the Israeli leader reaffirmed that Israel will not let Iran obtain nuclear weapons.

Israel and the United States have pushed for an international effort to halt Iran’s nuclear research program amid fears that it directed towards weapons development. Tehran claims that its facilities are only for medical purposes but has nonetheless been subjected to increasingly severe sanctions on its oil exports and international financial operations.

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