Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) yesterday denied a report in the February 23 Washington Times alleging that Russia is continuing to channel missile technology to Iran. An SVR spokesman intimated that the report was part of a broader campaign by the United States to undermine cooperative relations between Russia and Iran. The spokesman also suggested that the report also reflected an effort by U.S. intelligence agencies to weaken efforts by the Clinton administration to maintain friendly relations with Moscow. (Itar-Tass, February 26)
Quoting unnamed U.S. intelligence officials, the Washington Times report charged that Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) is working in tandem with Iranian intelligence agencies to coordinate the clandestine technology transfers. It also charged, among other things, that Russian missile experts will over the next few weeks begin teaching courses in Tehran. (The Washington Times, February 23)
If true, the allegations by the U.S. newspaper would contradict assurances repeatedly given to the U.S. government by Russian leaders that Moscow is in no way involved in any Iranian missile development programs. The most recent diplomatic exchange of this sort occurred last month, when Clinton administration officials said that they had for the first time won concrete assurances from Moscow that Russian authorities would move actively to stop any such technology leaks to Iran. (See Monitor, January 19) Only a few days later, on January 22, Russian officials said that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had ordered a tightening of controls on Russian exports that could be used to make weapons of mass destruction. The move was said to be related to the U.S. concerns about missile technology transfers to Iran. (See Monitor, January 26)
The allegations that Moscow is involved in Iranian efforts to develop ballistic missiles have been a point of friction in Russia’s relations with both Israel and Washington. During a visit to Israel in October of last year, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov was told that, as long as Russia continued to aid Iran in this way, Israel would oppose Russia’s efforts to win a bigger role in the Middle East peace process. (AP, October 26; Itar-Tass, October 27) A similar message was conveyed earlier this week during a visit to Israel by Russian Duma speaker Gennady Seleznev. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Seleznev that actions by Russia to supply Iran with missile technology threatened not only Israel and other countries in the region, but, ultimately, Russia itself. (AP, February 23)
New Russian-Iranian Arms Deals?