Moscow is still delivering military hardware to the Syrian regime, the head of the state arms exporter confirmed Wednesday.
“We are continuing to carry out our obligations on contracts for the delivery of military hardware,” Rosonboronexport director Anatoly Isaykin told reporters at a news conference in Moscow. He added that there were anti-missile air defense systems and repair equipment but not attack weapons or aircraft, such as Mi-171 helicopters or Yak-130 Mitten jet trainers.
He stressed that Rosoboronexport has not shipped Iskander missile systems or other offensive weapons to Syria. "There have been no Iskanders on Syrian territory. And there are no contracts for supplies of offensive weapons."
Isaikin also mentioned that Syria ranked 13th or 14th in terms of volume on the list of the countries receiving Russian arms. At the same time he confirmed that Russia's cooperation with Iran continues, that it has resumed dealings with Libya and has not lost a single contract with Egypt.
According to Rosoboronexport's 2012 arms contract figures, India is the leading purchaser of Russian arms, with Myanmar, Vietnam, Venezuela and Middle Eastern countries also among the Russian defense industry's main clients. Russia's expanded list of its clients in 2012 included Afghanistan, Ghana, Oman and Tanzania.
Russia previously confirmed that it would fulfill 2007 and 2010 contracts to supply arms to Damascus, despite Israel and America's objections. This includes anti-tank Cornett missiles and P-800 Yakhont supersonic cruise missiles, which Israel considers capable of posing significant danger to its naval vessels in the Mediterranean Sea.
However, over the past few years, differing reports have been published concerning arms deals between Russia and Syria. Most of the reports have proven inaccurate, in particular the report published by the London-based Al Hayat daily last July, which claimed a deal between Russia and the Syrian regime to purchase a Russian missile air-defense system known as the S-300, Sukhoi-27 fighter jets, advanced T-80 tanks and MiG-25R for reconnaissance missions.
I wonder how lucky the Syrian regime is to have an ally like Russia, which despite the death toll in Syria rising to 70,000 continues to export arms, giving an excuse that Russia is committed to carry out prior agreements with Syria. For this, Russia must answer some questions: If the Syrian regime, led by Bashar Assad, falls, will it continue to export weapons? What is the validity of the arms contract between Russia and the Syrian regime, for us to know the date of the last shipment?
Isaikin denied shipping Iskander missile to the oppressive Syrian regime. His denial does not mean these missiles are not available in Syria. The Israeli DEBKAfile website, in January, stated that Syria received Iskander missiles from Russia and has deployed them along the adjacent border with Israel and Jordan in response to the deployment of NATO's deployment of Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries near Turkey's border with Syria.
For sure many countries in the Middle East are interested in Russian arms, in particular air-defense systems and long-range missiles. Arabs may find that dealing with Russia in arms transactions is much easier than dealing with America, which always considers that no country in the Middle East should own air, sea or ground weapons, as they might threaten Israel's security.