President Barack Obama said Friday he was surprised that Russia’s suspension of missile sales to Iran “held this long.”
The White House objected earlier this week when Russia announced it would lift a five-year ban on delivery of advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles. They would give the Islamic republic’s military a strong deterrent against any air attack.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu furiously protested the planned supply and phoned President Vladimir Putin to try to persuade him to reconsider, but was rebuffed. Israel fears the S-300s would complicate any military intervention as a last resort to thwart Iran’s nuclear drive. It also fears Iran could supply the missile defense systems to Syria or Hezbollah, diluting Israel’s air supremacy over Syria and Lebanon.
Moscow says a preliminary agreement over Iran’s nuclear program made a 2010 ban on sending the missiles to Iran no longer necessary.
Obama noted that Putin had previously suspended the sale “at our request. I am frankly surprised that it held this long, given that they were not prohibited by sanctions from selling these defensive weapons.”
Obama also said he’ll sign legislation expected to pass the Senate and House giving Congress a say on a final deal. He called it a “reasonable compromise.”
The legislation would block Obama from waiving congressional sanctions against Iran for at least 30 days after any final agreement. That would give lawmakers time to weigh in.