ShareThis Page
U.S./World

Russia-Iran missile deal up in the air

| Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2008

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran has left little doubt that it wants to buy a sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons system from Russia. The confusion in recent days has been over the question: Has Moscow said yes?

Under pressure from Israel, which views Iran as one of its major threats, Russian officials have promised not to sell S-300 mobile long-range defensive weapons to Iran. But a flurry of recent conflicting reports have muddled the matter.

On Monday, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman was cagey. Hassan Qashqavi told reporters that he had not "received any report" regarding the missiles from "relevant" officials.

"You know we have cultural, economic and political as well as defensive cooperation with Russia," he said. "I cannot confirm or deny the news. You all know that we have several agreements with Russia. Some of the agreements have been implemented, some not."

During the weekend, Iranian lawmaker Esmail Kosari, deputy head of a parliamentary committee, declared that Iran soon would take possession of the S-300 system, missile launchers that can shoot down aircraft at high altitudes.

Russian officials have been little help in providing clarity. Publicly, officials say they won't sell Iran the weapons. But Rosoboronexport, the state-owned company that manufacturers and distributes the weapons, yesterday issued a statement saying that Moscow would continue to sell Iran defensive weapons, including unspecified anti-aircraft systems.

"Notably, Russia develops military-technical cooperation with Iran in strict compliance with its international commitments deriving from nonproliferation regimes," the report said, according to the Interfax news agency. "This cooperation cannot be a source of concern for third countries."

Then came another report issued by the Federal Military-Technical Cooperation Service stating that "media reports claiming the alleged delivery of S-300 systems to Iran are wrong," according to Interfax.

That clear statement was followed by yet another report, this one citing an unnamed "military diplomatic" source in Moscow as stating that the S-300 systems are being packed up and prepared for shipment to Iran. "S-300 air defense systems are expected to be delivered from the defense ministry's warehouses," the source said.

It could be that Moscow has no intention of selling Iran the weapons but wants to make it clear to the West what damage it could do to Washington's strategies if it were so inclined. Last week, Russia agreed to donate 10 MiG-29 fighter jets to Lebanon, undermining a U.S. aim of not giving the Middle East nation any weapons that could threaten Israel.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me