Russian President Vladimir Putin has suspended the transfer of S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran in light of Tehran’s violation of an earlier pledge not to provide sophisticated Russian-made weaponry to the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah, according to a report Saturday in the Kuwaiti daily Al Jarida.
A senior source told the newspaper that the Russian leader elected to punish the Iranian regime after Israel supplied him with clear-cut evidence that Tehran had given its proxy Hezbollah SA-22 surface-to-air missiles.
The intelligence information was corroborated by reports from Russian pilots flying their fighter jets over Lebanon and Syria.
The Russian air force anti-missile radars were able to detect SA-22 systems stashed in regions of Lebanon that are under the control of the Shi’ite militia.
During his speech before the United Nations General Assembly this past fall, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed a number of new details regarding Hezbollah’s re-stocking of its weapons arsenal with the help of Iran and Syria.
The premier said that Hezbollah had managed to smuggle advanced SA-22 missiles into Lebanon as well as Yakhont surface-to-sea precision missiles.
Foreign media reports from April of last year indicate that Israel’s air force attacked Hezbollah bases in Lebanon that were outfitted with SA-22.
The Israeli military is hardly concerned about the older SA-5 model surface-to-air missile that is currently rusting in Hezbollah’s stockpiles, for these are considered unreliable and ineffective.
SA-22 missiles, however, could pose a threat to Israeli fighter jets who enjoy relative freedom of operation in the skies over Lebanon.
The senior source told the Kuwaiti newspaper that the Kremlin has been adamant that Iran withdraw its forces backing President Bashar Assad from Syria.
According to the report, Moscow has told the Iranians that it has no need for their support given its interest in reaching a political settlement that would put an end to the five-year civil war in Syria.
The Russians have reportedly told Iran that their interests are not identical when it comes to Syria.
Russia canceled a contract to deliver the S-300 advanced anti-missile rocket system to Iran in 2010 under pressure from the West following UN sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program.
Tehran agreed to the deal on curbing its nuclear work in July last year and international sanctions were lifted in January. But tensions with Washington have remained high as Tehran continues to develop its military capabilities.