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Thursday, August 18, 2011     GET REAL

Stronger Israel-Russia ties seen tempering
arms sales to Iran

WASHINGTON — A leading U.S. strategic center has called for defense cooperation between Israel and Russia.


The Center for Strategic and International Studies said the United States should promote defense cooperation between Israel and Russia as a means to wean Moscow from arms sales to Iran. In a report by Brandon Fite, the center said the Kremlin could be persuaded to abandon major defense projects to Iran and Syria, leading adversaries of Washington and Jerusalem, Middle East Newsline reported.

"As Russo-Israeli trade increases, the Russians may become more hesitant about alienating a valued trade partner by providing its enemies with advanced weapons technologies," the report, titled "U.S. And Iranian Strategic Competition: Competition Involving China and Russia," said.

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Dated Aug. 11, the report cited Russia's cancellation of the sale of the S-300 air defense system to Iran and Syria. Fite said one factor in the Kremlin's decision could have been the sale of Israeli unmanned aerial vehicles to the Russian Army.

"The cancellation of the S-300 system for example, yielded Russia several coveted Israeli UAVs," the report said. "While Russia's growing trade with Israel has not halted Russia's supply of missile technology to Syria, it did play a factor in the cancellation of the S-300 deal. Israel has begun to sell Russia UAVs, a high priority technology for maintaining pipeline security in Russia."

The report said Russia has sold a range of major weapons systems to Iran over the last 20 years. The platforms were said to have included MiG-29 fighter-jets, T-72 main battle tanks, TOR-M1 air defense systems and air-to-air missiles.

"In the past decade, Iran has purchased more than $5 billion in Russian weaponry," the report said.

Still, Fite determined that the Kremlin's policy was based on cost and benefit. He envisioned a lobby within the Russian leadership for an Israeli alternative to Iran.

"Bilateral pressure will certainly not lead to a cessation of arms sales to Iran, but it may have a strong dampening effect — decreasing the quantity and quality of future deals," the report said.

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