Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel brushed off concerns over Egypt’s reported acquisition of the Russian S-300 air defense system.
At a conference Wednesday, Eshel conveyed Israel’s worry that Russia’s impending sale of S-300 rockets to Iran would make it more difficult to stop Iran’s nuclear program militarily, a fact that could also make it more difficult to stop the program diplomatically.
“It (an Iranian S-300) is a very big challenge. It is a strategic problem long before it is an operational problem,” Eshel said, according to Reuters. “Someone who has an S-300 feels protected and can do more aggressive things because he feels protected.”
Asked if Israel was similarly concerned over reports in March that suggested Egypt was also acquiring the system, Eshel said, “Are you kidding me? We’re at peace with them.”
Unconfirmed reports of the Egyptian sale surfaced in the Russian news service TASS in March, claiming that Cairo would buy batteries of the Antey-2500 system, a variant of the S-300, for over a billion dollars.
“We’re all for Egypt getting anything it needs from the United States for counterterrorism,” Reuters quoted a senior Israeli military officer as saying this month.
“The problem is that the S-300 has nothing to do with counterterrorism.”
An American official told the news service he had heard “muted” misgivings over the Egypt deal, but that “the Israelis seemed resigned to it,” in the words of Reuters.
“They have a problem because here they are telling us we should give (Egypt) all this kit for Sinai, and yet they have problems with certain other weapons systems. They’re aware that it’s a mixed message, and they don’t want to risk that,” the American official said.