Over the past year, the US State Department had repeatedly objected to the proposed Russian delivery of S-300 missile defense systems to Iran. One year ago, the issue first came up when as CNN reported then John Kerry raised objections with Moscow over a plan to sell advanced missile defense systems to Iran. The White House said Kerry made the US opposition clear in a phone call to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
It wasn’t just Kerry: the Pentagon also expressed concern about the move, saying it was “unhelpful.” At the time, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren told reporters that “our opposition to these sales is long and public. We believe it’s unhelpful. We are raising that through the appropriate diplomatic channels.”
Israel also chimed in and “expressed alarm” over Putin’s announcement that he was lifting the block on the transfer of the controversial weapons system to Tehran, against which both the US and Israel have lobbied hard. “There is concern that the S-300 would seriously complicate any attempt at military intervention against Iranian nuclear facilities” CNN reported.
A senior Israeli official told Haaretz on Monday night that the Kremlin briefed Israel on its decision a short while before announcing the move. The official said Israel is also worried components of the air-defense system will be transferred to Syria and Hezbollah, seriously hamstringing the air force’s ability to dominate the skies over Lebanon or Syria.
And yet, none of these formal diplomatic complaints resulted in anything. As Iranian media reported overnight, Russia has delivered the first part of an advanced missile defense system to Iran, starting to equip Tehran with technology that was blocked before it signed a deal with world powers on its nuclear program.
The S-300 surface-to-air system was first deployed at the height of the Cold War in 1979. In its updated form it is one of the most advanced systems of its kind and, according to British security think tank RUSI, can engage multiple aircraft and ballistic missiles around 150 km (90 miles) away.
In a recorded transmission, state television showed Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari telling a news conference on Monday: “I announce today that the first phase of this (delayed) contract has been implemented.”
Ansari was replying to reporters’ questions about videos on social media showing what appeared to be parts of an S-300 missile system on trucks in northern Iran.
More from Tasnim News:
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari announced on Monday that the first phase of a contract with Russia on the sale of S-300 air defense missile system to Iran has been completed.
The first phase of the contract has run its course, Jaberi Ansari said at his weekly press briefing in Tehran on Monday, expressing the hope that all the phases of the deal will be implemented according to schedule.
The head of Russia’s industrial conglomerate Rostec had said last month that Iran would take delivery of the first shipment of S-300 missile defense system in August or September this year.
“I think we will deliver the S-300 by the end of the year,” Sergei Chemezov said on March 11. “The first delivery will be in September or August.” Chemezov also said that Iran has stressed it is only interested in purchasing S-300 PMU-1.
“They (Iranians) gave the conditions, and said they need only an S-300 PMU-1. We suggested an Antey-2500, but they said no, give us the S-300,” he said
On February 17, Russian media reported that the first consignment of S-300 surface-to-air missile defense systems was to be delivered to Iran on February 18. However, one day later, Russia’s Defense Ministry dismissed the reports and said there were still some issues that needed to be resolved.
Under the previous contract signed in 2007, Russia was required to provide Iran with at least five S-300 defense system batteries. But the contract, worth more than $800 million, was revoked after then-President Dmitry Medvedev banned the supply of those systems to Tehran in 2010.
Later, Iran lodged a $4 billion lawsuit at an international court in Geneva against Russia’s arms export agency. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin decided in April 2015 to lift the self-imposed ban on the S-300 missile system delivery to Iran.
While the U.S. military has said it has accounted for the possible delivery of the S-300 to Iran in its contingency planning, Israel is sweating now that any attack on Iran’s nuclear centers, or elsewhere, can result in an immediate counterattack.
Finally, to confirm receipt of the first S-300 system, Iran released the following video clip.
* * *