Iran deploys long-range missiles to defend Fordo nuclear site
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Iran deploys long-range missiles to defend Fordo nuclear site

Protecting nuke facilities is paramount, says Iran air commander as state TV airs images of Russian-made S-300 launchers

Russian-made, S-300 long-range missiles at the Fordo nuclear site in central Iran, August 28, 2016. (Screenshot/Press TV)
Russian-made, S-300 long-range missiles at the Fordo nuclear site in central Iran, August 28, 2016. (Screenshot/Press TV)

TEHRAN, Iran — Tehran has deployed a recently delivered Russian-made long-range missile system to central Iran to protect its Fordo nuclear facility, state television said Sunday.

Protecting nuclear facilities is paramount “in all circumstances” General Farzad Esmaili, the commander of Iran’s air defenses, told the IRIB channel.

“Today, Iran’s sky is one of the most secure in the region,” he added.

A video showed an S-300 carrier truck in Fordo, raising its missile launchers toward the sky, next to other counter-strike weaponry.

The images were aired hours after supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave a speech to air force commanders, including Esmaili, in which he stressed that Iranian military power was for defensive purposes only.

“Continued opposition and hype on the S-300 or the Fordo site are examples of the viciousness of the enemy,” Khamenei said.

“The S-300 system is a defense system not an assault one, but the Americans did their best for Iran not to get hold of it,” he said.

The Russian-made missile defense system is one of the most advanced of its kind in the world, offering long-range protection against both airplanes and missiles. The first shipment arrived in Iran in April.

In 2010 Russia froze a deal to supply the system to Iran, linking the decision to UN sanctions instituted because of Tehran’s nuclear program. Putin lifted the suspension in July 2015, following Iran’s deal with six world powers that curbed its nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions.

Israel has long sought to block the sale to Iran of the S-300 system, which analysts say could impede a potential Israeli strike on Tehran’s nuclear facilities. Other officials have expressed concern that the systems could reach Syria and Hezbollah, diluting Israel’s regional air supremacy.

The Fordo site, built into a mountain near the city of Qom has stopped enriching uranium since the January implementation of the nuclear deal.

A satellite image of Iran's Fordo uranium enrichment facility (photo credit: AP/DigitalGlobe)
A satellite image of Iran’s Fordo uranium enrichment facility. (AP/DigitalGlobe)

Under the historic accord, Iran would have dismantled most of its estimated 19,000 centrifuges — giant spinning machines that enrich uranium, keeping only 5,000 active for research purposes.

Meanwhile, Iran maintains a diverse ballistic missile defense system and conducts regular missile tests.

Though not banned by the nuclear agreement, the tests violate United Nations resolution 2231, which calls on Tehran to refrain from ballistic missiles development, including testing, for eight years.

Tehran has said it would continue developing its ballistic missile program even after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and other world leaders have said the missile tests were not in the spirit of the nuclear deal.

Iran has maintained it never sought to acquire nuclear weapons and never will, and the agreement does not prohibit legitimate and conventional military activities.

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