Clouds Over Tehran

Rixon Stewart – November 30, 2011

It seems that Iran is unveiling new weaponry or claiming new military accomplishments almost every week now. But it would be a mistake to believe that this is simply a display of national or militaristic bravado.
For Iran has indeed made considerable headway in developing its own military technology. From being entirely dependent on Western military hardware under the Shah, through arms embargoes after his fall, Iran has become almost entirely self-sufficient in providing its own defence needs.
From producing its own tanks and armoured vehicles, through an array of indigenously developed missiles, anti-aircraft weapons, combat aircraft, naval vessels and long-range radar systems; Iran has developed into a regional military power in its own right.
Indeed, one might be mistaken for thinking that it was actually preparing for a war of conquest; were it not for the fact that repeated veiled threats over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program make such preparations seem entirely justified.
Regardless of whether Iran is developing nuclear weapons and that’s a BIG maybe, the signals from the U.S., the U.K. and Israel – each with their own nuclear arsenals – suggest that they would more than welcome ‘regime change’ in Tehran. Indeed, there are strong indications that they may be covertly working toward such an end.
For years now there has been speculation over an Israeli/US/UK attack on Iran or its nuclear facilities.
Only a few weeks ago the British Chief of Staff, General Sir David Richards secretly visited Tel Aviv to confer with his Israeli counterparts. It’s anyone’s guess what was discussed but given the current tensions it’s no surprise that his unannounced trip sparked concern in Tehran. 
So although it hasn’t happened yet an Israeli/US/UK strike is still a very real possibility, all the more so as Iran continues to develop as a power in its own right.
Yet Iran’s regular displays of military power and readiness serve another purpose: they serve to warn potential aggressors that they will meet a formidable challenge should they attack.
Nonetheless, Iran does have an Achilles’ heel: its lack of an integrated long-range air-defence system. Russia’s S-300 missile system should have filled that gap but the repeatedly delayed sale finally fell through as a result, say analysts, of U.S./Israeli pressure.
Leaving Iran vulnerable to an all-out air campaign.
Fortunately for the Mullahs such a campaign seems unlikely, for now at least. For that they may thank Allah while the Western powers may simply blame the winter cloud coverage over Iran for hampering their air strikes.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak admitted as much during an interview today, when he ruled out an air strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, “for the moment”.
Either way Iran may still have some time to prepare for whatever is coming.
To this end it is in the process of developing its own version of the S-300. The design phase of the integrated air defence system named the Bavar 373 has already been completed, mock-ups of which were paraded in Tehran.
Moreover the Iranians seem confident about its capabilities, claiming that it will be “superior to the Russian S-300”.
Again this is more than mere bravado given that the Russian system was first unveiled in 1993. Since then the S-300 has been superseded by the S-400 and there is every reason to believe that the Iranian system will be as good if not better than the original Russian system.
Nonetheless, that doesn’t answer the billion-dollar question: will the Bavar 373 be operational and fully deployed when the clouds lift over Tehran next spring? 
The Deputy Commander of Khatam ol-Anbia Air Defense Base for Research and Self-Sufficiency told reporters that part of the system would be unveiled by the next Iranian year, which begins on March 20, 2012.
Meaning that it’s going to be a really close call.
So stay tuned: next April/May could see the beginning of what amounts to Armageddon.

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