ROAR: Russia not in a hurry to deliver S-300 systems to Iran

Vladimir Kremlev for RT
Moscow’s military and technical cooperation with Iran has become part of the political bargaining relationship with the West, analysts think.

Russia’s failure to deliver contracted S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to Iran may harm the bilateral relations, head of Iran’s national security parliamentary committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi said.

The issue of S-300 missiles is nothing new, the parliamentarian said. He even went on to say that Russia “has opened a new chapter in failing to fulfill its promises,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov said in October that the S-300 missiles “are not being delivered to Iran,” the paper said. The daily also quoted “a source in the Russian executive structures” as saying that Moscow “is inclined to give up the fulfillment of the contract.”

“Despite the fact that the deal was signed in 2007, the Russian side has not confirmed that it has come into effect,” the paper said. And Iran has not paid for the contracted systems.

However, Russia’s Federal Service of Military-Technical Cooperation said in October that Moscow would fulfill its commitments according to “existent legislation and its international obligations.”

The service restrained from additional comments on any concrete plans and commitments on the present contracts, because it would mean “being an unreliable partner.” It would also make it possible “for potential competitors to use the situation,” the service said.

The US and Israel have sharply criticized the deal because they believe it “breaks the balance of forces in the region,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta said.

The S-300 is considered one of the most effective anti-aircraft missile systems in the world. It tracks targets and fires at aircraft 120 kilometers away and is able to simultaneously engage up to 100 targets.

Russian analysts weigh the pluses and minuses of Russia’s cooperation with Iran in the military sphere. Nina Mamedova, head of the Iranian department at the Institute for Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences described Tehran as “a key geopolitical partner of Moscow” in the Middle East.

“Any weakening of political contacts would do more harm to Moscow than cuts in trade ties,” Mamedova told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. But she added that Russia’s economic links with the West are more important than trade contacts with Iran.

The construction of the Bushehr nuclear plant remains the main object of the trade and economic cooperation between Moscow and Tehran, she said.

The issue of the S-300 deliveries may be raised by those political forces in Iran that want to use a well-known principle and “to blame an external enemy” for all the problems, Mamedova stressed.

Those who support the attempts to normalize relations between Tehran and Washington may be also interested in “playing the Russian card,” she said. They may try to blackmail Russia and “to make friends with the US against it,” the analyst added.

There are serious reasons behind Russia’s failure to deliver the missiles to Iran. Moscow would not gain politically from the fulfillment of the contract now that Iran is not responding to “proposals from the international community to settle the problem of its nuclear program,” Mamedova stressed.

Some analysts, however, believe that the failure to fulfill the contract with Iran will harm Russia’s position in the Middle East. “We are losing a big political ally in the southern direction,” Konstantin Sivkov, vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems told Russkaya Liniya news agency.

Russia has delayed the realization of the project citing “different formal excuses” – despite the fact that the S-300 system is “defensive and cannot be used for offensive goals,” Sivkov said.

“The appearance of the S-300 missile systems in Iran will actually deprive Israel of the possibility to deliver a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities without US support,” the analyst said. “The detailed analysis has already been conducted,” he added.

Thus, the S-300 systems “would reduce the threat of a possible war against Iran,” he said. And Russia is interested “in warm and reliable relations” with Tehran, he noted.

Losing such a political ally as Iran will “automatically increase the tension and the risk of a military conflict near our borders,” Sivkov said. “The failure to deliver the missile systems to Iran is a serious blow to Russia’s security,” he added.

At the same time, Iran considers the S-300 systems vital to its own security, analysts stress. As for its nuclear program, Tehran may “imitate” that it abandons it to defend its territory from possible preventive strike by the US or Israel, Aleksandr Shatilov, analyst of the Center for Political Conjuncture, said. And the attempts “to buy S-300 missile systems only confirm this,” he said.

Iran needs the S-300 now “more than ever,” believes Rajab Safarov, general director of the Iran Contemporary Studies Institute. “The construction of the Bushehr nuclear plant enters the final stage,” he was quoted by Rosbalt news agency as saying. “Nobody doubts that if the tension increases, this strategic facility will be the first thing to be aimed at,” he said.

Officials in Tehran openly say that only Russia may provide Iran with advanced defensive systems and “ensure the country’s air security from potential threats from Israel and the US,” the analyst said.

Earlier, Russia made it clear that it would not be in a hurry to fulfill the deal with Iran regarding the S-300, “because it may hinder the dialogue that has begun with the new US administration,” Rosbalt said.

Moscow considers the military and technical cooperation with Iran as “an element of political bargaining with the West, rather than as a means of realizing its fundamental defensive and commercial interests,” Ruslan Pukhov, Director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, told RIA Novosti news agency.

At the same time, the analyst believes that the role of the S-300 “in containing the Israelis or Americans is exaggerated.” The US and Israel are interested in forcing Russia to annul the contract or at least to delay the deliveries, Pukhov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. Washington is using the S-300 systems to exert political pressure on Russia, he said.

If Russia continues with its “restrained and ambiguous policy toward Iran,” China may use the situation and “offer quite competitive arms practically in all segments of the market,” Pukhov said.

Sergey Borisov, RT