Published: may 22, 2010; Lifting U.S. Ban on Russia’s S-300s for Iran Blows Hole in Israel’s Security.
Israel’s security suffered a major setback on the eve of its homeland war-safety exercise (starting Sunday, May 23) from three Obama administration concessions that were granted to buy Moscow’s backing for UN Security Council sanctions against Iran. One was the deletion of an embargo on sophisticated weaponry, including the suspended sale of Russian S-300 systems sought by Tehran for shooting down any US or Israel warplanes attacking its nuclear sites.
As Israel prepared to drill millions of the country’s civilians to prepare for synchronized assault by hundreds of rockets and missiles from Iran, Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, Washington awarded Moscow, i.e. Tehran, three additional gains.
US officials indicated they did not rule out a new round of nuclear negotiations with Tehran – even after the Brazilian-Turkish-mediated enriched uranium deal signed with Iran last Monday, May 17.
And on Friday, May 21, the administration scrapped sanctions against the Russian state arms export agency and three other Russian entities that were penalized in the past for transferring sensitive technology or weapons to Iran. Also lifted were sanctions against a fourth Russian entity for illicit arms sales to Syria, including technology for developing the very missiles against which Israel’s five-day exercise is preparing the public next week.
Our Washington sources report that the Obama administration bought Russia’s backing for a weak UN sanctions resolution by giving way on penalties detrimental to Iran’s economy or impeding its nuclear program. America thus opened the door for Russia to start training Iranian S-300 missile crews – without Israeli raising its voice in protest in either capital.
Tzachi Hanegbi, chairman of the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee, reaffirmed in a TV Channel One interview Friday night that a nuclear-armed Iran would imperil Israel’s very existence. He, like many other Israelis in official positions, strongly gainsays assertions to the contrary by defense minister Ehud Barak.
Saturday, after the new US concessions came to light, administration officials tried to allay criticism in Congress by claiming that Moscow had improved its performance on Iran and would stand by its understanding with Washington not to proceed with the S-300 sale. However, the training of Iranian operating crews looks more like bringing the sale forward than holding it back.
Debkafile’s Iranian sources point out that in five short days – since accepting the Brazilian-Turkish uranium swap deal – Tehran has substantially enhanced its international and strategic position in four critical areas:
- Tough UN sanctions are off the table, leaving individual governments the freedom to proceed, or not, with unilateral penalties against Iran’s nuclear violations.
- The heavily-diluted UN draft omits any mention of energy bans, such the refined oil products, a provision formerly advocated by Washington as the most effective means of forcing Iran to abandon its drive for a nuclear weapon.
- Not only has the notion of a sea blockade gone by the board, but heavy restrictions are clamped down on searches of vessels suspected of carrying contraband military or nuclear cargoes, for which permission must now be requested by the nation flagged. This allows Iran and Syria to safely import nuclear materials and missiles by sea without fear of interception. Even before the haggling begins, therefore, the new “sanctions” draft before the UN Security Council scarcely answers to its description.
- The Obama administration’s inclination to treat the new uranium exchange deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey as the Six-Power Group’s springboard for bringing Tehran back to the negotiating table offers Iran the gift of more time and space to achieve its ultimate objective of a nuclear weapon.
Military sources point out to debkafile, that Washington’s uneven and inconsistent approach to Iran and Syria make naught of the protestations made by President Obama and other US officials of their unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security. The unhindered delivery of S-300 missiles to Iran, like the latest Russian arms deal with Syria, substantially offsets Israel’s capacity to deter its enemies. Not only are its air force pilots placed in harm’s way; so too is the country’s entire population.
Iranian teams train on S-300 interceptors at Russian bases
Published: may 19, 2010; Iranian teams train on S-300 interceptors at Russian bases.
While Russia joins the US in backing a softened UN Security Council sanctions package against Iran, Tuesday, May 18, Moscow is reported by debkafile’s military sources as surreptitiously training Iranian Revolutionary Guards crews at Russian bases to operate the advanced S-300 interceptor-missile systems, which are capable of fending off a potential US or Israel attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
UN sources disclose that the new sanctions motion – in its present diluted form – does not expressly forbid the consignment of this weapon to Iran.
Moscow is withholding them from Tehran for now, keeping the promise prime minister Vladimir Putin gave President Barack Obama. But if and when the weapons are delivered, Iran will have trained crews ready to operate them.
In their push to develop military ties with Iran and its allies, the Russians earlier this month also agreed to sell Syria MiG-29 fighter jets, Pantsyr short-range air defense systems and armored vehicles in a major arms transaction.
Washington and Jerusalem have known about the presence of IRGC S-300 missile crews at Russian training bases since early May. But when Israeli president Shimon Peres raised the issue during his talks with President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow on May 9, he was told sharply that neither Israel nor any other government is entitled to tell Russia to whom it may give military assistance.
And when US diplomats in New York and Moscow were instructed to ask their opposite numbers whether the training program augured the shipment of the interceptors to Iran, notwithstanding Putin’s promise, they were greeted with deafening silence.
On May 11, the White House was worried enough to send the president’s nuclear adviser to tell reporters: “The United States has made clear to Russia that delivering a promised advance air defense system to Iran would have serious implications on US-Russian relations.”
This was the sternest admonition for Moscow to be heard ever from an Obama spokesman. This time, the Russians responded with equal abrasiveness. Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, who was with President Medvedev in Ankara at the time, shot back: Moscow needs “no advice from across the ocean” about the sale of the S-300.
These less-than-diplomatic exchanges aside, the fact remains that Moscow’s consent to start training Iranian missile crews has strengthened Tehran’s hopes of the interceptors’ early delivery. The Iranians are even more encouraged by the success of the Russian-Chinese bid to delete from the UN sanctions draft any substantial expansion of the standing international arms embargo that might apply to the sophisticated S-300 anti-missile, anti-air system.