US: Russia’s S-300 missile sale to Iran marks Israel’s decision point

Russian SA-300 long-range anti-air missile in action
Russian SA-300 long-range anti-air missile in action

An American military intelligence official says Russia’s sale of S-300 long-range missiles to Iran presents a “decision point for Israel, since once the anti-aircraft system is in place it could deter any strike” against Iran’s nuclear sites. In this first gloomy statement, the American source did not rule out such a strike but implied it would be more difficult.

State department spokesman Robert Wood said Monday, Dec. 22: “We have repeatedly made clear… that we would strongly oppose the sale of S-300.” US officials warned the missiles installed within Iran’s borders could reach American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and shift the Middle East military balance of power.

DEBKAfile‘s military sources point to the confusion contrived by Moscow about the state of the consignment. Nonetheless, an American source said Tuesday: “The US believes it is taking place.” In Moscow, a “military-diplomatic source” said Monday the S-300 systems are being packed up and prepared for shipment to Iran: “S-300 air defense systems,” he added, “are expected to be delivered from the defense ministry’s warehouses.” The latter statement indicates that the missiles going to Iran are coming out of Russia’s own emergency stores and not waiting to come off production lines.

In response to media reports regarding the sale of S-300 systems to Iran, Vyacheslav Davidenko, spokesman of the Rosoboronexport arms exporters, said Monday without mentioning the missile by name: “At present exclusively defense systems, air defense systems fall within this category, are supplied to Iran,” adding: The Tor-M1 missile aid defense systems were earlier supplied to Iran.”

DEBKAfile‘s military sources draw two conclusions from the Russian official’s comment: One, that Moscow first sold Tehran a short-range air defense system and is now following up with the long-range S-300 to round off the full range of its air defenses; and two, a sales pitch is advising the Arab regimes to count on Russia – rather than America – to look after their defensive requirements for important strategic sites just like Iran. The same message was conveyed by the gift of 10 MiG-29 fighter jets Moscow made to Lebanon earlier this month.

The Russian government’s actions refute the soothing assurance by its Tel Aviv ambassador who denied Moscow planned a missile transaction with Iran or had begun deliveries.

For DEBKAfile article of Dec. 18, first disclosing that the transaction had gone through, click HERE

DEBKAfile Special Report
December 23, 2008, 12:05 AM (GMT+02:00)

Source: DEBKAfile (Mossad)

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