Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, expressing Israel’s “grave concerns” regarding Russia’s decision to provide Iran with advanced antiaircraft missiles.
According to a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu told Putin that the 2007 deal providing Iran with S-300 missiles, finally authorized to move forward on Monday, “will only encourage Iranian aggression in the region and further undermine the stability of the Middle East.”
Putin was apparently unmoved, however. He attempted to assuage Netanyahu’s concern, according to the Kremlin. “Putin stressed that the S-300 missile system is purely defensive and will not pose threat to Israel or any other country in the Middle East,” it said in a statement, according to Sputnik.
Netanyahu may head to Moscow to meet with Putin and urge him again not to go through with the supply to Iran, Channel 2 reported.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon argued earlier on Tuesday that Russia’s decision to lift a ban on implementing the $800 million deal was an outgrowth of the nuclear framework agreement reached between world powers and Iran last week.
“The S-300 deal that we are hearing about now is a direct result of the framework agreement that was reached in Lausanne,” Ya’alon said, referring to the outline deal reached in the Swiss city earlier this month. “This is what we were warning about even before the details were agreed.”
In his statement Tuesday, Netanyahu echoed that view.
“This sale of advanced weaponry to Iran is the direct result of the dangerous deal on the table between Iran and the P5+1. Can anyone still seriously claim that the deal with Iran will enhance security in the Middle East?” he said.
While Israeli officials publicly blasted the deal as a significant threat to Israel’s national security, a number of security experts said it would not spell the end of a potential Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The experts called the potential deployment of the system by Iran a hindrance but not a game changer.
“If the Israeli Air Force had the ability to act against Iran’s nuclear facilities before the S-300, then it will have it afterward, too,” retired IAF general Asaf Agmon, head of the Fischer Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, told The Times of Israel. He did express concern, however, that Iran could transfer the weapons to Hezbollah and Syrian President Bashar Assad, two Iranian allies. Israeli sources told Channel 2 news on Monday that Iran has already stepped up its arms shipments to Hezbollah and Hamas.
Channel 2 on Tuesday said Israeli pilots have trained against the S-300 in recent years, with the cooperation of friendly nations that have the system.
Meanwhile, Ali Shamkhani, head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said on Tuesday that the Russian weapons could reach Iran by the end of the year. But his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, sounded less decisive.
“It will depend on our manufacturers,” he told the Interfax news agency.