October 18 saw the expiration of the international conventional weapons ban on Iran. Under UN Security Council resolution 2231 adopted in 2015, the embargo on military transactions with Iran has been in effect for 5 years. From now on, Iran is free to purchase tanks, armored vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, helicopters and ships, missiles and missile systems. The ban on providing Iran with technical training, financial transactions, advice and other assistance related to the supply, sale, transfer, production, maintenance or use of conventional weapons is also a thing of the past now.
Iran enjoys a lucky strike in politics. During a Cabinet meeting, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has congratulated the Iranians on the end of the sanctions regime, noting that the lifted sanctions applicable to conventional weapons is the result of Iran's four-year struggle against US attempts to disrupt it.
"Today's normalization of Iran's defense cooperation with the world is a win for the cause of multilateralism, peace and security in our region," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on his Twitter page.
So, what is Iran's political victory?
First, Iran has demonstrated its commitment to international agreements. And this compares favorably with the United States, which left the JCPOA, and the European trio (Great Britain, Germany and France), which is still part of the agreement but virtually fails to comply with its conditions. Even after reducing part of its obligations under the deal, Tehran remained substantially true to it – it remains committed to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), having abandoned the production or accumulation of weapons-grade plutonium, as well as the development or creation of nuclear weapons and their means of delivery, with its nuclear activities being under exhaustive control of the IAEA.
Secondly, the victory can be called political, as Iran's volume of arms trade will be relatively small, one must suppose. As for imports, Iran, under its defense and economic doctrine, has long been committed to providing the army with its own weapons to the greatest possible extent. This was prompted by international and American sanctions and the need to arrange defense without respect to external factors – the constant threats coming from the United States and Israel, the hostility of Saudi Arabia, instability in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the South Caucasus.
As for the future Iranian weapon exports, its potential is limited both by the item identification and a small number of friendly countries unable to purchase expensive alternatives from the world's largest arms manufacturers.
However, Iran's foremost political victory was the failure of nearly all Washington's attempts to preserve the arms embargo and extend Resolution 2231 in this respect. Ahead of restriction removal, those endeavors by the United States were a sight to behold!
Looking for a reason to extend the embargo, the United States, assisted by the Israeli Mossad intelligence, planted misinformation within the IAEA about Iran's two alleged "secret" facilities with undeclared nuclear activities underway. But the trick failed. Even though aware that the specified "evidence" is a fake of blackest dye, Iran still made concessions to the IAEA and granted extraordinary access to the "mysterious" objects. The incident was over and done with.
After that, the United States sought to rush a resolution in the UN Security Council to include the so-called "reverse" mechanism for sanctions return. Memorably, it suffered a major setback here, with 13 out of the 15 UN Security Council members refusing to support the American resolution.
Without international support, the US Treasury announced sanctions against 18 leading Iranian banks 10 days before the embargo expired. Among the sanctions are institutions that provide financial operations of the military-industrial complex and serve the Iranian armed forces' needs. Thus, among those restricted was Hekmat Iranian Bank, which serves the armed forces of Iran. In May 2020, Hekmat merged with Bank Sepah, a financial platform for the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL). Bank Sepah "caught up to" its activities even earlier, with Washington imposing sanctions against it back in November 2018.
Other banks "got a rap on the knuckles" for being supervised by the Central Bank of Iran. And the latter, being Iran's key state financial institution, has long been under US sanctions for providing support to the elite unit of the Iranian armed forces – the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, its special Quds Force and the Lebanese military-political organization Hezbollah, considered a terrorist organization in the United States.
At the same time, Washington actually makes no secret of the fact that the dollar is once again playing the role of a "faucet" in American foreign policy. "Today's action to identify the financial sector and sanction eighteen major Iranian banks reflects our commitment to stop illicit access to U.S. dollars," US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said, when announcing the banking sanctions. The restrictions' official goal is without any sort of singularity – "to deny the Iranian government financial resources that may be used to fund and support its nuclear program, missile development, terrorism and terrorist proxy networks, and malign regional influence."
Among the alleged terrorist-supporters and regional influence maligners were Tosee Taavon Bank (or the Cooperative Development Bank) and Tourism Bank, serving the tourist sector. The list of new financial outcasts includes the Maskan State Housing Bank specializing in mortgages, and the Keshavarzi Iran Bank granting loans to the farmers. How did they displease the US Treasury, then?
By blocking dollar transactions for Iranian banks that serve the needs of the Iranian armed forces, Washington is once again violating UN Security Council resolution 2231, causing enormous damage to the United Nations' prestige.
However, the United States has long believed that it stands above international law. This superiority complex "trend" is becoming increasingly pronounced. President Donald Trump has already declared himself second most popular after Jesus Christ. The best is yet to come!
It bears reminding that in May 2018, the head of the White House withdrew from the international agreement on the Iranian nuclear program (JCPOA), having for the first time violated UN Security Council resolution 2231. This entailed the return of the toughest sanctions against Tehran. Thus, any financial relations between Iran and the outside world are extremely difficult today. In this regard, the embargo abolishment can also be only seen as Tehran's political success. However, this is quite a bit.
In the United States itself, the voices of experts who believe that the latest banking sanctions against Iran will not stop Tehran in its determination to build up its defense capabilities are growing stronger. So, last week, even the odious American Atlantic Council issued a report noting that Iran's activities have already been subjected to secondary sanctions, so this move will by no means prevent Iran from developing ballistic missiles.
Russia is not afraid of US sanctions either. Moscow has repeatedly stated readiness to work with Tehran on arms deals. So, in September, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov stressed: "Russia is developing multi-aspect cooperation with Iran and cooperation in the military-technical sphere will proceed depending on needs of the parties and mutual readiness to such cooperation."
The other day, in an interview with the Iranian Resalat newspaper, Russian Ambassador to Iran Levan Jagarian said Moscow was ready to deliver its S-400 air defense system to that country. "We said from the very first day that starting October 19 there won't be any mishaps with the sale of weapons to Iran," the Russian Ambassador stressed, adding that Moscow will enthusiastically study the Iranian side's proposals on the purchase of weapons from Russia after October 18.