Russia’s air force commander completed a visit to Iran on Monday when he allegedly promised the delivery of a missile defense system that could deter Israel from launching military strikes against the country.
Lieutenant General Viktor Bondarev’s visit came less than a week after the American Department of Defense announced it agreed to sell $10.8 billion worth of advanced missile systems to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two of the United States’ allies in the Middle East and both foes of Iran.
While no arms deals were announced during Russian general’s visit, his Iranian counterpart, Brigadier General Farzad Esmaili, told the Fars New Agency that his country will import “the S-300 missile system or a similar one.” He contended that “sanctions do not apply” to the Russian missile systems because they are defensive in nature and said during a news conference after talks with Bondarev that “the Russians agree with that.”
Russia signed an $800 million contract with Iran in 2007 to deliver five of the systems which can take out aircraft and guided missiles. However, in 2010, President Dmitri Medvedev canceled the agreement and banned the sale of virtually all military hardware to the Islamic republic, citing United Nations sanctions which prohibit weapons sales to a country Arab states and the United States suspect is developing a nuclear weapons capacity. Iran later filed a suit against the Russian Federation with the International Court of Arbitration in Paris, seeking reparations.
The Iranians hope that the S-300 or a similar system will deter Israel from carrying out unilateral airstrikes against its nuclear bases. The Jewish state destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007 and has repeatedly threatened to launch military action if Iran comes close to building a weapon.
Last week, Russia described renewed nuclear talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany in Geneva as “quite promising” and suggested that proposals from President Hassan Rouhani’s government could produce progress toward defusing the standoff. The Americans, who hailed July’s election of the relatively moderate cleric Rouhani, said the talks had been more candid and serious than any so far. Previous rounds of negotiations failed to produce an accord.