After the Russian government announced earlier this week that it was lifting its internal ban on shipping the S-300 missile systems to Iran, an analysis in The Daily Beast published Wednesday asserted that Iran, like Russia, would be able to use those systems as offensive weapons, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
As contributor Will Cathcart explained:
As the Kremlin lifts its ban on the delivery of S-300 missiles to Iran, and as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claims the air defense systems “will not put at risk the security of any state in the region, including Israel,” a palpable irony hangs in the air here. For years, Russia has been using S-300 missiles to dominate the skies and to threaten Georgia within her own territory.
Cathart observed that “[t]he point of the S-300 is to project power and achieve armed tactical control over the airspace of those territories,” and then explained how Russia utilized them to intimidate the small neighboring country of Georgia:
For Georgia, which is not a NATO member despite a decade-plus of trying, Russia takes this air sovereignty violation campaign to a whole new level. The Kremlin has positioned—or maintains the ability to position—S-300 missiles at three locations: Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia’s two Russian-occupied breakaway regions, and Russia’s 102nd Military Base in Gyumri, Armenia.
As Georgian Journal recently reported, “The Russian aerial defense forces have the potential of inflicting paralyzing damage to Georgia’s territorial integrity.” The result is a kind of “reverse Iron Dome” over Georgia, giving Putin almost absolute control of the country’s airspace. This in itself proves that the S-300 systems are not “defensive” weapons, regardless of Putin’s assurances to Israel. Just because they are “anti-aircraft” weapons does not make them “defensive.” Russia uses these missiles for the outright dominance of its neighbors’ skies, which is why Israel, the Gulf states, and Turkey should be worried about Iran receiving them.
Cathart cited an earlier article on the Russian plan to complete the deal to send the S-300 systems to Iran, which quoted an Air Force commander.
The sale of the S-300 also would neutralize any possibility that Israel could take unilateral action against Iran, one senior Air Force commander noted. The S-300 would effectively prevent the Israeli air force from attacking Iran until the F-35 is delivered to that nation.
“I find it almost hilarious that the Russians are saying, ‘It’s an entirely defensive system and cannot attack anyone, including Israel,’” the senior officer said. “But it also essentially makes Iran attack-proof by Israel and almost any country without fifth-gen [stealth fighter] capabilities. In other words, Iran, with the S-300, can continue to do what they want once those systems are in place without fear of attack from anyone save the U.S. Brilliant chess move…”
An analysis published in the National Interest pointed to an additional implication of the Russian decision to complete the S-300 deal with Iran: “should the talks fail, Russia will not support new sanctions against Iran.”
The Associated Press reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated that the decision to lift the ban was because Iran “has shown a great degree of flexibility and a desire to reach compromise” in its nuclear negotiations with the P5+1 nations.
Despite United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929 banning the transfer of weapons systems to Iran, the S-300 is a ground-to-air missile, which by definition is a defensive system, and therefore falls within a loophole in the resolution. Russia adapted the ban due to diplomatic pressure from the United States and Israel in 2010.
Russia also said that it would ship S-300 systems to Syria two years ago, but has not not done so yet.
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