Iran on Sunday paraded what it claimed were parts of its newly received Russian-made S-300 air defense system, after months of speculation over whether Moscow would deliver the advanced weapon.
Several trucks loaded with what Iran said were parts of the system, including vehicles and missile housing, were paraded through Tehran during an event to mark the country’s annual Army Day, days after an Iranian official said Russia had begun to carry out its part of the deal following years of start-and-stop negotiations.
Photos of parts of the S-300 showcased at the parade were published on Iranian news sites and posted on social media.
According to the semi-official Fars News, the parts did not include the missiles themselves.
Speaking at the parade at Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s mausoleum, President Hassan Rouhani touted the Iranian army’s capability as the reason why “arrogant regional powers” couldn’t turn their “greedy and malicious” eyes to Iran, Mehr news reported.
فارس: موشکهای سامانه اس 300 در رژه حاضر نبود pic.twitter.com/eawwLn2m85
— mehdi mahmoudi (@mehdimahmudi) April 17, 2016
Rouhani said that those who say Iran didn’t need hard power were “naive,” and those who say the Islamic Republic doesn’t need soft power are “short-sighted,” a Tasnim news agency reporter quoted him saying.
He also said Tehran would come to the aid of countries seeking to combat terrorists or Israel.
“If tomorrow your capitals face danger from terrorism or Zionism, the power that will give you a positive answer is the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said. But he added that Iran would only help if Muslim countries asked it to, and said its military power was purely for defensive and deterrent purposes.
“The power of our armed forces is not against our southern, northern, eastern and western neighbors,” he said.
He appeared to be referring to Gulf Arab states, which have long viewed Iran as seeking to dominate the region. Saudi Arabia and Iran are longtime rivals that back opposite sides in the Syrian and Yemeni civil wars.
Last month, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said that Iranians who put diplomacy ahead of military development were wrong-headed.
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.
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.
Last week Iran claimed it began receiving the S-300 missile defense system from Russia, but quickly retracted the claim, saying only that Russia had begun to carry out the agreement to sell Iran the weapon.
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.
In the last several months, there have been multiple reports in the Russian and Iranian press that delivery of the system was imminent or had been carried out.
The Israeli Air Force has trained for a scenario in which it would have to carry out strikes in Syria or Iran on facilities defended by the Russian-made S-300 air defense system.
In an interview late last year, IAF commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel said the S-300 was a “significant but not insurmountable challenge” for the IAF.
Judah Ari Gross and AP contributed to this report.