Russia tells Syria: No missile sales for now

Moscow won't export missile system to foreign clients before full deployment in Russian army.

Iskander 248 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Iskander 248 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Months after offering Russia to deploy long-range ballistic missiles in his country, Syrian President Bashar Assad was informed this week that Moscow will not sell Iskander missiles to foreign clients due to production delays. According to a report by the Russian news agency Novosti, the state arms exporter Rosoboronexport has decided that despite interest from a number of countries - including Syria, the United Arab Emirates and India - Moscow will not export the Iskander missile until the Russian Armed Forces are fully equipped with the system. The Iskander missile - also known as the SS-26 Stone - is a long-range, solid fuel- propelled, theater quasi-ballistic missile system. According to reports, the missile has only been subject to test firing and will likely only become operational in four years. The system was developed to carry conventional warheads for the engagement of small targets, fixed missile silos and anti-aircraft systems as well as command posts and critical civilian infrastructure facilities. The missiles are reportedly difficult to intercept. In August, Assad visited Moscow where he spoke with President Dmitry Medvedev and reportedly discussed the possibility of allowing Russia to set up Iskander missile launchers in Syria. Israel was concerned with the reports and feared that the missiles could be used in a future conflict in the region. In October, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made a lightning trip to Moscow to urge Medvedev not to sell Syria advanced missile systems. In May, a Syrian military delegation, led by Air Force Commander Gen. Ahmad Al Ratyb, visited Russia for talks about the possible procurement of the Iskander as well as the advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missile defense system. Earlier this month, Medvedev threatened to deploy Iskander missiles in the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad sandwiched between NATO members Lithuania and Poland to "neutralize if necessary" a proposed US missile defense system in Europe. Chief of General Staff Gen. Nikolai Kakarov said that the military was prepared to deploy the missiles per Medvedev's final order.