Conflicting Reports on Sale of S-300 to Iran

Iran says S-300 missile deal with Russia on track
RIA Novosti – April 15, 2009

There are no obstacles to the delivery of Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to Tehran, Iran’s deputy foreign minister said on Wednesday.

“There are no problems with this [S-300] contract,” Mehdi Safari said at the end of his visit to Moscow.

He offered no specifics about the contract’s implementation, but dismissed concerns voiced by a number of countries over possible S-300 deliveries to Iran.

“After all, these are purely defensive weapons, and any country has the right to buy them. I believe this could only worry those states that have plans to attack others,” he said.

A Russian arms export official said last month Iran had not yet received any S-300 air defense systems.

Iranian media, citing senior security officials, have repeatedly reported that Russia has started delivering elements of the advanced version of the S-300 missile to Tehran under a 2007 contract.

The latest version of the S-300 family is the S-300PMU2 Favorit, which has a range of up to 195 kilometers (about 120 miles) and can intercept aircraft and ballistic missiles at altitudes from 10 meters to 27 kilometers.

It is considered one of the world’s most effective all-altitude regional air defense systems, comparable in performance to the U.S. MIM-104 Patriot system.

Iran recently took delivery of 29 Russian-made Tor-M1 air defense missile systems under a $700-million contract signed in late 2005. Russia has also trained Iranian Tor-M1 specialists, including radar operators and crew commanders. The S-300 system is significantly superior to the Tor-M1.

Russia not supplying air defence systems to Iran
AFP – April 15, 2009

Russia is not currently implementing its planned sale of sophisticated S-300 air defence systems to Iran, a top official with the state office for arms sales told Interfax.

“Nothing is happening. Supplies are not taking place,” said Alexander Fomin, deputy head of the Federal Service for Arms Cooperation, at an arms fair in Rio De Janeiro.

Russia’s plans to provide the systems to Iran have attracted criticism from the United States and Israel, neither of which have ruled out attacks on Iran’s controversial atomic facilities.

The comment came after an unnamed official at the same agency said last month delivery of the defence systems, intended to shield key areas from attack, would depend on the “developing international situation and the decision of the country’s leaders.”

Moscow’s decision to hold back on the sales partly reflects international pressure but also warming ties between Russia and the United States, a chief adversary of the Islamic republic.

This month Russia also said it was making its first ever purchase of reconnaissance drones from Israel, reflecting closer ties with the Jewish state in the defence sphere.

Comment – April 15, 2009

Of course Russia may just use the delivery of the S-300 system as a bargaining chip with the US. Or, they may deliver the air defence system in secret leaving the US/Israel to find out the hard way.

One way or the other, we’ll know in the coming months. Ed.