Putin May Resume Missile Sales to Iran at Summit With Rohani

President Vladimir Putin may agree to resume Russian missile sales to Iran this week when he meets his counterpart Hassan Rohani for the first time, after heading off a U.S. attack against their common ally Syria.

Putin and Rohani, elected in June, will discuss a range of issues at their Sept. 13 meeting in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, including possible deliveries of S-300 surface-to-air defense systems and Russia’s plan to put Syria’s chemical arsenal under international control, according to Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman.

Putin has agreed in principle to resume missile sales to Iran and to start work on a second nuclear reactor at Bushehr, the country’s only atomic plant, the Kommersant newspaper reported today, citing an unidentified person close to the Kremlin. Peskov declined the comment on the likelihood of the two leaders reaching a missile agreement at their meeting.

“First of all, they will get to know each other,” Peskov said by phone today. “Cooperation in the military sphere and the situation in Syria will be on the agenda.”

Then-President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010 froze Russia’s S-300 contract with Iran to avoid international pressure after the United Nations imposed sanctions against the Islamic republic. Iran has sued Russia for breaching their contract because defensive systems aren’t prohibited by the sanctions.

‘War of Nerves’

There are disagreements among Russian officials about arming Iran and Putin will have to make a decision after meeting Rohani, said Ruslan Pukhov, head of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies in Moscow.

“It’s a war of nerves among senior Russian policy makers,” said Pukhov, who is also a member of public advisory board to the Defense Ministry. “The final political decision will largely depend on the meeting in Bishkek.”

President Barack Obama yesterday postponed a decision on military action against Iran’s neighbor Syria after Putin proposed to neutralize the counry’s chemical stockpile. Putin rejects U.S. claims that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was behind an Aug. 21 chemical attack that killed more than 1,400 people near Damascus. Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, is holding on to power amid a 2 1/2-year civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people.

“We are looking at the new leadership with hopes to deepen our cooperation with Tehran,” Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees the defense industry, told reporters Aug. 30. S-300 shipments will “only be possible if lawsuits against Russia are denounced,” Rogozin said then.

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