Russia has agreed to deliver an advanced anti-aircraft missile system to Iran, several months after repealing an embargo on the country while the terms of a international nuclear agreement and sanctions regime were still being negotiated.
Iran will receive the S-300 long range surface-to-air missile systems by the end of this year, according to the agreement, a move sure to ruffle feathers in Jerusalem as it would greatly encumber any potential military strike on Tehran’s nuclear facilities.
“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,” Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Russia Today on Wednesday.
The report added that the terms of an agreement between the two nations had been reached and penned in a contract. The number of systems to be delivered was not mentioned in the report — although that has been agreed upon, Bogdanov said.
One of the most sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons in the world, the S-300 is capable of tracking multiple planes at once and some versions have an interception range of 200 kilometers.
Russia initially agreed to sell the advanced system to Iran in 2007 but then balked, saying at the time it was complying with a United Nations arms embargo.
In April, shortly after the announcement of the Lausanne outline for the nuclear deal between world powers and Iran, Russia announced it was lifting the ban on selling the advanced missile defense system to Iran, over US and Israeli objections.
On Tuesday, Iran’s Fars news agency quoted Iran’s defense minister as saying that Tehran asked for three batteries of the system and recently added a fourth one to the order.
The announcement comes a day after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif visited Moscow in a sign of flourishing ties between the countries. Zarif reportedly discussed the S-300 deal with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov as well as the Syrian civil war and other issues.
The two denied a report that Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps head Qassem Soliemani had visited Moscow recently and met with high-level Russian officials despite a UN travel ban. According to reports, Soleimani’s visit was devoted to the S-300 deal.
In April, Israeli pilots flying F16I jets, the most advanced fighters currently in service in the Israeli Air Force, conducted a drill in Greece in which they practiced attacking S-300 batteries, according to a report in Israel Defense. According to the report, the Israelis conducted joint maneuvers with Greek pilots where they simulated attacks on the S-300 system deployed in Crete. The drill, according to the report, included 150 Greek jets and 10 Israeli jets.
The report said that IAF commander Major General Amir Eshel visited his troops and even flew one sortie over the Aegean Sea side by side with his Greek counterpart. Eshel has described the S-300 as a very tough, but not insurmountable, challenge for the Israeli Air Force.
Jonathan Beck contributed to this report.