Ya’alon: Russian missile delivery to Iran consequence of nuke deal

Defense minister says world powers plan to lift sanctions on Tehran, insists agreement demand end to terror support

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL/FLASH90)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL/FLASH90)

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Tuesday that the recent nuclear framework agreement between world powers and Iran opened the gates for Monday’s Russian decision to supply Tehran with advance air defense missiles.

“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.”

Ya’alon said that by agreeing to supply the missiles, which were held up since 2010 because of global sanctions imposed on Iran, Russia had demonstrated that the international community intends to abandon the sanctions regime altogether.

“It is already clear that they are removing sanctions. This is one of them,” he said.

Undated photo of a Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile system on display in an undisclosed location in Russia (photo credit: AP, File)
Undated photo of a Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile system on display in an undisclosed location in Russia (photo credit: AP, File)

The European Union, while concerned Russia’s decision to lift its ban on supplying S-300 air defense missiles to Iran, did not plan to let the sale affect the continuing negotiations with Tehran that aim to reach a final agreement by June 30, a spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Tuesday.

Ya’alon noted that Iran is continuing to arm various militias in the region, including Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip.

“They are arming Hezbollah in the north, support the fighting in Syria, in Yemen,” he said. “This is something that was not discussed [in the deal] and it is one of the biggest holes in the agreement. That is certainly very worrying and I hope that there will still be time in the coming months to correct that.”

“Iran is continuing to use terror in the region against pro-Western regimes like Yemen,” Ya’alon continued, adding that Tehran was funding Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip to enable them to replenish weapons supplies depleted during the 50-day summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas.

“There’s tens of millions of dollars that was already transferred to the Gaza Strip, to Hamas, and the Islamic Jihad after Operation Protective Edge in order to help them to rearm.”

Ya’alon stressed Israel’s continuing opposition to the nuclear deal, which he said was inadequate on a number of counts.

“We continue to warn against this bad deal that is taking shape with Iran, that doesn’t include [a demand that Iran stop funding] terror, doesn’t include [a ban on] missile parts [for long-range missiles], doesn’t include [preventing] the military aspects of the Iranian nuclear project,” he said.

Ya’alon’s comments came the day after Russian announced it would follow through on a deal to supply Iran with the sophisticated S-300 missiles that were part of a deal signed in 2007. At the time the US and Israel strongly opposed the sale and in 2010 Russia blocked transfer of the system to Iran in keeping with global sanctions that prohibited the supply of military equipment to Iran. World powers had implemented a range of measures to squeeze the Islamic Republic into a nuclear agreement.

Experts say the S-300s would complicate any attempt at military intervention against Iranian nuclear facilities. Israel also fears they could be made available to Syria and Hezbollah, changing the balance of power in the region.

Global powers must resolve a series of difficult technical issues by the June 30 deadline for a final nuclear deal, including the steps for lifting global sanctions imposed on Iran, and lingering questions over the possible military dimensions of its nuclear program.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who will have the final say on any deal, has plunged the accord into doubt by suggesting that “nothing is binding,” while President Hassan Rouhani demanded that sanctions be immediately lifted when any deal is signed. Global powers Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States have said sanctions will only be gradually eased and want a mechanism to ensure they can be swiftly reimposed if Iran breaks its word.

Although Iran claims the nuclear research is for peaceful purposes only, world powers fear it is aimed at developing atomic weapons.

AP, AFP contributed to this report.

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