Thanks in part to the Iran nuclear deal, Russia now plans to deliver as many as four S-300 missile systems to the country, according to a news report.
Here’s what Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said about the long-delayed plan to send three or four of the advanced surface-to-air missile systems to the Islamic republic, according to an article today from the state-owned RT television network:
“As things stand now, this topic is closed. We have reached full understanding on the matter together with our Iranian partners. The question has been fundamentally solved. The rest is just technical details.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin in April lifted a voluntary hold on the weapons sale, which dates to 2007, apparently over progress in talks between Iran and Western countries to curb the country’s nuclear ambitions.
That’s precisely what has worried some U.S. officials. The pact would allow the Islamic republic to pursue a limited atomic program for peaceful purposes over the next decade — but also lift economic sanctions and a key arms embargo.
Here’s what Marie Harf, the spokeswoman for the State Department, said after Putin made his comments in April, according to a transcript of her remarks:
“Well, I saw what he said. As we have made very clear, we have significant concerns about the – their intention to lift the hold on the transfer of this – the sale of this defensive system to Iran. We’ve previously made our objections known. We, look, aren’t going to speculate into Russia’s decision making. I think that was part of what he talked about today. Certainly the case that Russia’s economy has been under incredible strain and that, as some press reports have noted, it may be that Russia is doing this purely for the money involved given they need an influx of finances given the state of their economy … we agree with what President Putin did say that we don’t expect this to impact the unity of the P5+1 inside the negotiating room. He said that, and we certainly believe the same.”
Russia and China pushed hard for the embargo to end as the two countries stand to benefit from increased trade of conventional arms and ballistic missiles with Iran.
The Iranians have for years wanted the S-300. They even went so far as to file a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit against the Russians over the delay, though that complaint is reportedly being dropped. Even Ali Shakhmani, the head of the Iran’s national-security council, is optimistic the sale will go through, according to an article from the Russian news agency TASS:
“I think they will be supplied this year,” he said.
Congress still has to approve the Iran deal for it to take effect. Regardless, if the sale does go through, watch for defense hawks to cite it as justification for more funding for fifth-generation stealth fighters such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter designed to counter such threats.