No Washington-designed “maximum pressure” has been able to derail a crucial milestone this Sunday: the end of the UN arms embargo on Iran in accordance with UN Security Council 2231, which has endorsed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the deal is formally called, was unilaterally ditched by the Donald Trump administration. But that, notoriously, did not prevent Washington from engaging in a massive campaign since April to convince its “allies” to extend the arms embargo and simultaneously trigger a snapback mechanism, thus re-imposing all UN sanctions on Tehran.

Foad Izadi, professor of International Studies at Tehran University, summed it all up: “The US wanted to overthrow the government in Iran but failed obviously; they wanted to get more concessions out of Iran, but they have not been successful and they actually lost concessions. So the policy of a maximum pressure campaign has failed.”

Watching the current US electoral shadow play, no one can tell what happens next. Trump 2 most certainly would turbo-charge “maximum pressure,” while Biden-Harris would go for re-incorporating Washington into the JCPOA. In either option, Persian Gulf oil monarchies are bound to increase the usual hysteria about “Iranian aggression.”

The end of the arms embargo does not imply a renewed arms race in Southwest Asia. The real story is how Russia and China will be collaborating with their key geostrategic ally Iran. It’s never enough to remember that this Eurasian integration trio is regarded as the top existential threat to Washington.

Tehran patiently waited for October 18. Now it’s free to import a full range of advanced weaponry, especially from Moscow and Beijing. Moscow has hinted that as long as Tehran keeps buying Su-30s, Russia is ready to build a production line for those fighter jets for Iran. Tehran is very much interested in producing its own advanced fighters.   

A Russian Sukhoi Su-30 fighter in flight. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Sergei Krichikov

Iran’s own weapons industry is relatively advanced. According to Brigadier General Amir Hatami, Iran is among a select group of nations able to manufacture over 90% of their military equipment – including tanks, armored personnel carriers, radars, ships, submarines, drones, fighter jets and, crucially, land and seaborne cruise missiles with ranges, respectively, of 1,000 and 1,400 kilometers.

Professor Mohammad Marandi of the Faculty of Policy Studies at the University of Tehran confirms that “Iran’s military industry is the most advanced in the region and most of its needs are provided by the Ministry of Defense.”

So, yes, Tehran will certainly buy military jets, “but Iranian made drones are the best in the region and they’re improving,” Marandi adds. “There is no urgency, and we don’t know what Iran has up its sleeves. What we see in public is not everything.”

A classic case of the public face of something that can’t be seen was just offered by the meeting, last Sunday in China’s Yunnan province, between excellent pals Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. 

That’s, of course, part of their own strategic partnership – to be sealed by the attention-grabbing US$400 billion, 25-year, trade, investment and energy deal.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in a file photo. Photo: Facebook

Both China and Iran are encircled by rings of the US empire of bases and have been targets of varying relentless brands of hybrid war. Needless to add, Zarif and Wang reaffirmed that the partnership evolves in direct contrast with US unilateralism. And they must have discussed weapons deals, but there were no leaks of their deliberations.  

Crucially, Wang wants to set up a new dialogue forum with equal participation of all stakeholders” to deal with important security issues in West Asia. The top precondition for joining the forum is to support the JCPOA, which was always staunchly defended by the Russia-China strategic partnership.  

There won’t be a US October surprise targeting Iran. But then there’s the crucial interregnum between the US presidential election and the inauguration. Trump seems determined to fight hard to retain his ranking as the most unpredictable of US presidents. Starting on election day all bets remain off.