Iran seeks advanced Russian weapons: reports
Delivery of air defense system awaits Russian political decision
Iran's defense minister will seek to convince Russia on Tuesday to deliver sophisticated air defense systems that could help repel possible Israel and U.S. air strikes, Russian media reported.
Iran’s Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, in a meeting with his Russian counterpart, was expected to urge Moscow to fulfill a controversial contract for the delivery of Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to Tehran, Russian press reported.
"It is not ruled out that during the talks the Iranian side will raise the question about fulfilling the contract for the delivery of the S-300," A Russian military source said according to the Interfax news agency.
Russia's Kommersant newspaper reported that an $800 million contract for five S-300 systems were signed between Iran and Russia, but the paper cited a source in the Russian weapons industry saying that Moscow had not yet made a decision on whether to deliver them.
An Iranian lawmaker said last year those deliveries had already begun and some Russian media have reported that Russia is fulfilling an S-300 contract with Iran.
No Weapons to “troubled regions”
In October, Russia's foreign ministry denied media speculation that Moscow would sell the medium-range S-300 system, saying it had no intention of selling weapons to "troubled regions."
The truck-mounted S-300PMU1, known in the West as the SA-20, can shoot down cruise missiles and aircraft. It can fire at targets up to 150 km (90 miles) away and can travel at more than 2 km per second, according to Russian media.
Also expected to be raised was the question of after-sales service for the 29 Tor-M1 missile systems that Russia sold to Iran in 2005 for a reported $700 million, Interfax reported.
The Tor-M1 air-defense systems have a shorter range than the sophisticated S-300s.
"I hope that this visit will lead to long-term development of relations in military cooperation, security and the strengthening of security in the region and around the world," Najjar said, according to a stamen from the Iranian embassy in Moscow. The statement made no mention of possible discussions about the weapons.
The United States has never ruled out the option of a military strike against the Islamic republic over its contested nuclear drive, which Western powers fear could be aimed at making an atomic bomb.
"The main restraining factor in the development of defense relations with Iran is the possibility for Moscow to improve its relations with the United States," Kommersant newspaper reported.
"News even just about the start of deliveries would seriously darken the atmosphere of these negotiations," it added.
The next weeks will be crucial for the development of relations. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed on Tuesday he expected to meet the new U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the next two weeks.
The main restraining factor in the development of defense relations with Iran is the possibility for Moscow to improve its relations with the United States
Political decision required
The head of the state arms export agency, Rosoboronexport, said that a political decision was required before the S-300 arms systems could be delivered to Tehran.
"If there is a decision from the president, a decision from the Russian government then Rosoboronexport will be obliged to fulfill it," Anatoly Isaikin said in an interview with the Nezavisimaya Gazeta earlier this month.
Iran, which the West fears is trying to build a nuclear bomb, is emerging as an issue where the United States has signaled it could work more closely with Russia to put pressure on Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions.
A senior U.S. administration official told Reuters this month that if Russia agreed to help dissuade Iran from seeking nuclear weapons then Washington could slow development of a missile defense system in Europe.
If there is a decision from the president, a decision from the Russian government then Rosoboronexport will be obliged to fulfill it