Implementing President Obama’s nuclear weapons deal with Iran has provided about $150 billion for the ayatollahs’ coffers since international sanctions were lifted. By January, even Secretary of State John Kerry had to concede that some of the money would be used to sponsor terrorists.
That shouldn’t have come as a shock even to Mr. Kerry. Iran is the world’s principal state sponsor of terrorism. It also shouldn’t have shocked him that Iran is spending at least $8 billion on arms purchases designed to prevent any nation from successfully attacking its nuclear weapons facilities as well as to strengthen its conventional forces.
About two weeks ago, Gen. Hossein Dehqan, Iran’s defense minister, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to arrange delivery of Russian S-300 missiles Iran purchased previously. Gen. Dehqan also sought to buy new Su-30 “Flanker” fighter jets and T-90 tanks, Russia’s most advanced tanks. (Mr. Putin had no qualms about dealing with Gen. Dehqan, believed to have been the architect of the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon that killed 220 Marines and 21 other servicemen.)
There’s no reason for Mr. Putin to deny these purchases, especially now that Iran has so much money to spend and because Iran has been a key Russian ally for decades. (There’s a U.N. Security Council resolution that supposedly bars Iran from purchasing weapons, such as military aircraft without U.N. approval. Good luck enforcing that.)
Russia has been building Iran’s nuclear power plants for about two decades. Concomitantly, Mr. Putin has been working to reduce Western sanctions on Iran and lessen pressures on its nuclear weapons program for at least a decade.
In my book, “In the Words of Our Enemies,” I quote a long passage from an interview Mr. Putin gave to al Jazeera in February 2007. He said, “We know the position of our Iranian partners . All of our action seeks to settle the confrontation over the Iranian nuclear issue. We think that would not take much. Iran must address the concerns of [the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency] but we do not think that this need in any way infringe on Iran’s plans and right to develop peaceful nuclear technology.”
Russia’s “partnership” with Iran continues in their allied military intervention in Syria to preserve the Bashar Assad regime (which our State Department has labeled a state sponsor of terrorism since 1979.)
Gen. Dehqan’s meeting with Mr. Putin is part of a process by which Russia is strengthening Iran both strategically and tactically.
The S-300 anti-aircraft and anti-missile system, once deployed, will safeguard Iran’s nuclear sites against an attack by any aircraft except stealth aircraft such as our B-2. Israel has no such aircraft, and other Israeli weapons, such as their cruise missiles, lack the punch to do anything that would seriously damage Iran’s nuclear sites. Only nuclear weapons would be effective against those targets.
Tactically, the Su-30s would restore credibility to Iran’s air force, which is still flying Vietnam-era F-4s and a smattering of other aircraft. Those aircraft, whether or not coupled with the advanced Russian tanks, could be very effective in Syria.
The West has known for several years that Iran was buying the S-300 missile systems and has done nothing to stop it. The Su-30s and T-90 tanks are things Iran can use effectively in local wars. But there’s a much bigger question than the fighters and tanks: What is Iran buying from Russia that we don’t know about?
Our military’s technological advantages are built around a variety of satellites. They are used for secure communications, navigation and other purposes, including tracking nations’ forces and terrorists’ movements. Our intelligence community relies on them for all sorts of espionage. While our constellations of satellites are a huge advantage for us, they are also highly vulnerable.
That’s why so many nations, including Russia, China and Iran, are trying to penetrate our satellites’ defenses against cyber-attacks to disable them or skew their programming. Several nations, again including Russia and China, are also testing kinetic-kill anti-satellite weapons, which destroy satellites by colliding with them or exploding near them.
In February of last year, Iran launched its fourth satellite into orbit, purportedly a GPS communications bird. On Oct. 10, it launched a nuclear-capable ballistic missile in violation of U.N. resolutions. There are no limitations on Iran’s continued development of nuclear-capable ICBMs in the deal President Obama made.
In November, Russia successfully tested its “Nudol” kinetic-kill anti-satellite missile. (China also tested one a month earlier). Which brings us back to the most important question: What else is Russia selling Iran?
If Russia wished to do so, it could sell Iran the Nudol missile, or the technology behind it. It could be helping Iran develop its cyberwar capabilities with our satellites in mind. And that’s only a couple of the many weapon systems and technologies that Russia could, and likely will, sell to Iran in secret.
Neither Mr. Putin’s Russia nor the ayatollahs’ Iran will be dissuaded from secret arms deals by any U.N. resolution. Mr. Obama must know this, yet he has remained silent at the news of Gen. Dehqan’s visit and the deals Iran has made with Russia. Other Western heads of state are equally silent.
Mr. Obama’s silence is unsurprising because his terribly dangerous nuclear weapons deal will be a key part of his legacy and define his place in history. Some Republican candidates pledge to revoke that deal if they are elected. That pledge is existentially important. A candidate who added strong criticism of the Russian arms sales to that pledge would be exhibiting the characteristic of leadership that now is only claimed.
• Jed Babbin served as a deputy undersecretary of defense in the George H.W. Bush administration. He is a senior fellow of the London Center for Policy Research and the author of five books including “In the Words of Our Enemies.”