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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Russians: S-300 not covered by sanctions resolution

Earlier on Thursday, there was a report that Russia had decided not to sell the S-300 surface-to-air anti-missile system to Iran. Israel regards the S-300 as a game changer since it allows Iran to more effectively defend its nuclear facilities. It is likely that if Israel were to determine that Iran is about to make an S-300 operational, it would attack Iran, regardless of where Iran is in the nuclear weapons process.
A report Thursday said that Russia had decided to suspend the sale of S-300 missiles to Iran, as a result of the UN Security Council imposing further sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program. The report attributed the information to a source in the Russian defense ministry. The deal for the sale of the anti-aircraft missiles had been struck in 2007, but Russia has delayed their delivery until now. The S-300 air defense system is an advanced mobile system that can shoot down aircraft and cruise missiles from up to 150 km away. In the past, Russian officials had said that the impostion of sanctions on Iran would not prevent the sale.
But later on Thursday, Russia issued a statement claiming (as had been reported during the run-up to the sanctions resolution) that the S-300 is not covered by the new sanctions.
The UN Security Council resolution passed Wednesday bans Iran from developing ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, investing in nuclear-related activities and buying certain types of heavy weapons.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko told journalists that the UN resolution does not apply to air-defense systems, with the exception of mobile missiles.

He spoke after the Interfax news agency, citing an unidentified source, reported that the S-300 contract would be frozen because of the new UN sanctions.

The Foreign Ministry also has warned that Russia will retaliate if the new UN sanctions lead to separate sanctions against Russian companies or individuals.
Whether the sanctions permit or prohibit the sale of the S-300 likely makes little difference to the Russians. As Jennifer Rubin notes:
It seems critical to Putin that Russia maintains its credibility. (”Tehran’s Ambassador to Moscow Mahmoud-Reza Sajjadi cautioned Russia over the S-300 deal, stressing that the country would lose ‘all its credibility as a reliable arms supplier’ if it failed to deliver the defense system.”) After all, if you show yourself to be unreliable, turn your back on allies, say one thing in public and another in private, what have you got?
Shouldn't someone be asking Barack Obama that question?

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