Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport has disclosed that despite US opposition, Moscow intends to empower Iran by supplying the country additional air defense systems.
Moscow has already delivered 29 Tor-M1 missile systems to Iran under a $700 million (£386 million) contract signed in 2005.
Reports, however, began to surface as early as 2005 on the possibility of another deal – the delivery to Iran of S-300 surface-to-air missile systems that can complicate any aerial strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.
“If Tehran obtained the S-300, it would be a game-changer in military thinking for tackling Iran. That could be a catalyst for Israeli air attacks before it is operational,” said Dan Goure, a long-time Pentagon advisor, in late August.
“This is a system that scares every Western air force,” he continued.
Israeli officials themselves have also commented on the issue, confirming that the system, once acquired by Iran, would complicate a potential attack on the ‘numerous, distant, and fortified’ nuclear sites in the country.
Tel Aviv and its ally, the United States, have threatened to launch air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities under the pretext that Tehran, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), has plans to develop nuclear weapons.
This is while the UN nuclear watchdog in its latest report on Iran announced that it could not find any ‘components of a nuclear weapon’ or ‘related nuclear physics studies’ in Iran.
According to the September 15 report, Iran enriches uranium-235 to a level of below 5 percent – a rate consistent with the construction of a nuclear power plant. Nuclear arms production requires an enrichment level of above 90 percent.
News of the possible Tehran-Moscow S-300 deal came just days after the Pentagon notified Congress of plans to sell 1,000 GBU-39 smart bombs to Israel.
The ‘bunker-buster’ bombs, the Guided Bomb Unit-39 (GBU-39), have been developed to penetrate fortified facilities located deep underground – such as Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Despite US and Israeli threats, however, Iran has declared that it will not halt uranium enrichment and has begun intense defense preparations.
On Monday, dozens of Iranian fighter jets, surveillance planes, interceptor aircraft and radar drones took to the skies in a joint three-day military exercise.
The maneuvers also involved testing a surveillance network equipped with state-of-the-art systems for identifying enemy aircraft.
In mid-August, Iran’s Air Force chief, Brigadier General Ahmad Miqani, announced that the country had revamped its fighter jet fleet to fly distances of 3,000 kilometers without refueling.
The upgrade allows Iranian aircraft to fly to Israel and back without needing to refuel.
Iranian military officials have also warned that Iran would not hesitate in taking the necessary measures to protect its sovereignty – including the closure of the Strait of Hormuz – in case the country comes under attack.
The strategically vital waterway, between Iran and Oman, connects the oil-rich region to high seas. As much as 40 percent of the world’s sea-transited crude oil passes through the strait.
In further preparations, the IRGC has recently equipped its navy fleet with high-tech weapons systems capable of targeting any vessel within a range of 300 km (185 miles) from its shores.
Should the S-300 system become operational in Iran, it would effectively rule out Israeli air raids and seriously complicate any US aerial bombings, according to George Friedman – the director of leading US private intelligence agency Stratfor.
“Back Georgia and Ukraine for NATO membership and you’ll see the S-300 to Iran. It is a very powerful bargaining chip and a major deterrent to US actions in the region. Moscow is playing very strategically on America’s obsession with Iran,” he said in late August.