Russia Updated Israel on Decision to Lift Ban on Sale of S-300 Missiles to Iran

Steinitz: End of delivery ban 'direct result' of Iran nuclear deal; Israel's main concern is that the system will be transferred to Assad or Hezbollah.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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S-300 anti-aircraft missile system.
S-300 anti-aircraft missile system.Credit: AFP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Russia updated Israel on its decision to lift the ban on the sale of S-300 anti-missile systems to Iran shortly before the reports emerged in Russian and international media, a senior official in Jerusalem said Monday.

Israeli concern about a future missile deal between Russia and Iran pertains to the possible transfer of this weapons system to Bashar Assad's regime in Syria or to Hezbollah, which would significantly limits the Israel Air Force's freedom of activity in Syrian or Lebanese skies, the official said.

Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said Monday that the Kremlin's decision was a "direct result" of the framework agreement reached between the six world powers and the Iranian regime.

"As Iran shirks clause after clause in the framework agreement, the international community begins to ease up on it," said Steinitz, while refraining from sounding any direct criticism of Russia. "This is a direct result of the legitimacy that Iran is obtaining from the deal being woven with it, and it is proof that the economic momentum in Iran that will come after the lifting of the sanctions will be exploited for arming and not for the welfare of the Iranian people."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart and relayed the U.S. reservations about the decision, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters in his daily briefing. Earnest said that the decision could endanger the U.S.' allies in the Middle East.

Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan welcomed the lifting of the ban, saying it would boost cooperation with Moscow and that it could help regional stability.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the decree lifting the ban on the delivery of S-300 earlier Monday. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that in light of the progress in the nuclear talks between Iran and the world powers, there was no longer a need for the embargo. He also said: "The S-300 is exclusively a defensive weapon, which can't serve offensive purposes and will not jeopardize the security of any country, including, of course, Israel."

According to the Kremlin, the presidential decree lifts the ban to deliver the missile system to Iran through Russian territory or outside of it, using planes or ships sailing under the Russian flag.

Russia's Defense Ministry will be ready to swiftly deliver the S-300 missile system to Iran if it gets the green light to do so, Interfax news agency quoted an official at the ministry as saying.
Russia says it canceled a contract to deliver the advanced missile system to Iran in 2010 under pressure from the West following UN sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program, but world powers and Tehran have now reached an interim deal on curbing Iran's nuclear work.

In recent years, Russia did not supply Iran with the advanced missile system, due in part to Israeli and American requests. Had the advanced missile system been delivered to Iran, it would have made an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities much harder.

Russia had signed a contract with Iran, to sell it the S-300 system, but the contract was canceled during the rule of the last president, Dmitry Medvedev. After the contract was canceled Medvedev released a presidential decree banning the delivery of a missile system to Iran.

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