- Russian president claims delivery of surface to air missile system to Iran direct result of nuclear talks
Russian President Vladimir Putin declared on Thursday that he revoked the ban on the delivery of the S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Iran due to progress in the nuclear talks, contradicting U.S. officials who claim that there is no connection between the Russian announcement and the current talks. State Department Acting Spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters that “[t]his is a little bit of a separate issue than the nuclear issue.”
While the U.S. opposes this sale and has made its position known to Russian officials, the Russians said the system will be delivered “promptly.” The State Department maintains that the U.S. has been in “lockstep” with Russia at the negotiating table with Iran and doesn’t “expect it [the sale] to impact the unity on the talks.” At the White House Press Briefing on Thursday, a reporter asked Press Secretary Josh Earnest if this sale, in part, suggests the unity of the P5+1 is in danger. Earnest responded, “I wouldn’t say that.”
Russia also denies that the sale of the surface-to-air missile system could pose a threat. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed that the system “is not adapted for aggression and will not endanger the security of any state in the region, certainly including Israel.” He continued that the system is “vitally important” for Iran, given the “extremely tense situation in the region around Iran.” However, Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon bluntly stated that the sale was a “direct result” of the understanding that emerged from the talks in Lausanne earlier in the month and that “a storm is raging around Israel, and that Iran is ‘continuing to arm itself, and arm others.’” Stratfor describes the Russian S-300 system as “one of the world’s most capable anti-aircraft systems.” The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board asserted on Tuesday that the transfer would make “Iran’s nuclear installations far more difficult and costly to attack should Tehran seek to build a bomb.”
After the Russian government announced earlier this week that it was lifting its internal ban on shipping the S-300 missile systems to Iran, an analysis in The Daily Beast published Wednesday asserted that Iran, like Russia, would be able to use those systems as offensive weapons, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
As contributor Will Cathcart explained:
As the Kremlin lifts its ban on the delivery of S-300 missiles to Iran, and as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claims the air defense systems “will not put at risk the security of any state in the region, including Israel,” a palpable irony hangs in the air here. For years, Russia has been using S-300 missiles to dominate the skies and to threaten Georgia within her own territory.
Cathart observed that “[t]he point of the S-300 is to project power and achieve armed tactical control over the airspace of those territories,” and then explained how Russia utilized them to intimidate the small neighboring country of Georgia:
For Georgia, which is not a NATO member despite a decade-plus of trying, Russia takes this air sovereignty violation campaign to a whole new level. The Kremlin has positioned—or maintains the ability to position—S-300 missiles at three locations: Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia’s two Russian-occupied breakaway regions, and Russia’s 102nd Military Base in Gyumri, Armenia.
As Georgian Journal recently reported, “The Russian aerial defense forces have the potential of inflicting paralyzing damage to Georgia’s territorial integrity.” The result is a kind of “reverse Iron Dome” over Georgia, giving Putin almost absolute control of the country’s airspace. This in itself proves that the S-300 systems are not “defensive” weapons, regardless of Putin’s assurances to Israel. Just because they are “anti-aircraft” weapons does not make them “defensive.” Russia uses these missiles for the outright dominance of its neighbors’ skies, which is why Israel, the Gulf states, and Turkey should be worried about Iran receiving them.