Telegraph: US fears Russia to sell S-300 to Iran

Moscow reportedly threatening sale if US pushes through NATO membership for Georgia, Ukraine.

August 31, 2008 09:03
2 minute read.
Telegraph: US fears Russia to sell S-300 to Iran

s-300 224.88. (photo credit: AP)

The US intelligence community is concerned Moscow will supply its S-300 antiaircraft missile system to Iran if Washington pushes through NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine, the Telegraph reported Sunday. The S-300 is one of the most advanced multi-target, antiaircraft missile systems in the world, with a reported ability to track up to 100 targets simultaneously while engaging up to 12 at the same time. It has a range of about 200 kilometers and can hit targets at altitudes of 27,000 meters. Iran's acquisition of the system would vastly upgrade the country's defenses against any air strike on its nuclear sites, Pentagon adviser Dan Goure was quoted by the British newspaper as saying. "This is a system that scares every Western air force," he said. "If Teheran obtained the S-300, it would be a game-changer in military thinking for tackling Iran," Goure said. "That could be a catalyst for Israeli air attacks before it's operational." George Friedman, director of Stratfor, a leading US private intelligence agency, was quoted by the Telegraph as saying that if the S-300 became operational, it would effectively rule out an IAF strike and seriously complicate any US air raid. In early August, a top defense official told The Jerusalem Post that if Russia goes through with the sale of the S-300 to Iran, Israel would use an electronic warfare device now under development to neutralize it and, as a result, demonstrate that Russia is vulnerable to air infiltrations. Friedman said Moscow was saying that if US and Western Europe don't stop meddling in its sphere of influence, the S-300 deal would go ahead. "Back Georgia and Ukraine for NATO membership and you'll see the S-300 sent to Iran," the UK paper quoted Friedman as saying. "It is a very powerful bargaining chip and a major deterrent to US actions in the region. Moscow is playing very strategically on America's obsession with Iran." While Russia has denied that it sold the system to Iran, Teheran claimed last year that Moscow was preparing to equip the Islamic Republic with the S-300 systems. Iran already has TOR-M1 surface-to-air missiles from Russia. Mixed media reports recently have emerged regarding the possible delivery of the system to Iran. In July, Reuters quoted a senior Israeli official who said the system would be delivered to Iran by the end of the year. In response, the Pentagon released a statement rejecting the assessment and saying that the US did not believe Iran would get it in 2008. According to the Israeli defense official who spoke to the Post, "No one really knows yet if and when Iran will get the system." The Telegraph said a senior US intelligence official who recently returned from the Middle East said Russia had reportedly struck a tentative deal to sell the S-300 to Iran. There are reports that Russia has already moved some basic components for the system to its close ally Belarus, ready for possible transfer to Iran. "Moscow cannot simply threaten to strike the deal," the official told the British newspaper. "Iran certainly thinks it has a deal. And the Israelis believe that a deal has been reached but that they can still block it." Should Israel or the United States attack Iran, it would be the start of another world war, Iranian Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Masoud Jazayeri warned Saturday. On Friday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Reza Sheikh Attar said Iran had increased the number of operating centrifuges at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant to 4,000, pushing ahead with its nuclear program despite threats of new UN sanctions.

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