Pentagon: S-300 won't reach Iran in 2008

Pentagon contradicts Israeli intel, which says Teheran could own anti-aircraft system by early 2009.

s-300 248.88 check caption (photo credit: Courtesy)
s-300 248.88 check caption
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Iran is not expected to receive an advanced Russian-made anti-aircraft system this year, Pentagon officials were quoted by Army Radio as saying on Friday. The US assessment is at odds with a view expressed by the Israeli intelligence community earlier this week. Military analysts say the S-300 missile batteries might become a significant hindrance to any Israeli plans to strike Iran's nuclear facilities. On Wednesday, Israeli sources said Iran was set to receive the system, also known in the West as the SA-20, by the end of the year. First delivery of the S-300 batteries was expected as soon as early September, one Israeli source said, though it could take six to 12 months for them to be deployed and operable. But Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said: "We firmly believe, based upon our understanding of the situation, that the Iranians will not be receiving that Russian anti-aircraft system this year." Morrell, who was responding to a query from Reuters, declined to elaborate on the reasons for the Pentagon's view. His comments expanded on remarks by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who said on July 9 that it was "highly unlikely that those air defense missiles would be in Iranian hands any time soon." The S-300 is one of the best multi-target anti-aircraft-missile systems in the world today and has a reported ability to track up to 100 targets simultaneously while engaging up to 12 at the same time. Iran has already procured several S-300 systems to protect its nuclear facilities, although reports have differed as to whether the systems have already been supplied by Russia. The systems will likely be supplied to Iran via Belarus. Earlier this month, award-winning journalist Edwin Black reported that the IAF exercise over Greece last month was conducted so Israeli fighter jets could study the S-300 air-defense missile system, which is deployed on the island of Crete. According to the report on The Cutting Edge News Web site, in December 2007 Greece installed the S-300 system in Crete following several years when it was stationed in Cyprus. According to The Cutting Edge, by flying within range of the Greek S-300, Israel was able to record invaluable information which could assist the IAF in developing means of jamming and defeating the advanced air-defense system. Head of the Center for Strategic and Policy Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy told Time magazine recently that "Iran is not 10 feet tall," meaning its threats of massive and destructive retaliation should not be taken uncritically. Halevy contends that a barrage of Iran's missiles on Israel would not do too much damage, since dozens would be shot down by Israel's advanced antimissile system. (Iran staged a missile test recently in which the published photo was doctored to hide the fact that one of the fired missiles was a dud.) Halevy also doubted whether Iran's ally Syria, which has long-range missiles, or its Hizbullah and Hamas allies would risk a major dustup merely to exact revenge on Iran's behalf. Still, he warned that the long-term effects of attacking Iran could be devastating for Israel - and the region. "This could have an impact on us for the next 100 years," he says. "It will have a negative effect on public opinion in the Arab world, and we should only [strike Iran] as a last resort."