18 Alarm 

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 Alarm 20

Alarm 19: Iran Shields Its Nuclear Activities by Russian Missiles

Dec. 27, 2007  Iran Shields Its Nuclear Activities by Russian Missiles and expects the delivery of S-300 missile defense systems

Russia is preparing to sell to Iran anti-aircraft missile systems S-300, Iran's defense minister said on Wednesday. This will be Russia's second major contract with Iran on air defense systems in the recent years. Analysts say that Russia is thus countering plans of the United States for military interventions in the Middle East.
Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said on Wednesday that the contract with Russia would deliver to Iran S-300 systems under a timetable to be announced soon. Russian arms trader Rosoboronexport and contract's executor Antey-Almaz did not comment on the statement but did not refute it either. Sources of Kommersant said that Russia has agreed to sell to Iran five S-300PMU-1 complexes worth $800 million. A source in the military industry reported that the contract had not been signed yet but talks were in a final stage. He, however, said that S-300PMU-1 might as well be sold to Iran from the arsenal of the Russian armed forces after necessary updates.

Teheran hosted last week a session of the Russian-Iranian intergovernmental commission on military and technical cooperation where Mikhail Dmitriev, head of the Federal Military and Technical Cooperation Service, made it clear that Russia was set to carry on cooperating with Iran in this field and added that this was necessary to preserve balance of forces in the region.

Contacts between Russia and Iran in military and technical cooperation got a major boost in early 2004 when Teheran asked Moscow's help in creating a missile defense system. Moscow suggested using S-300PMU-1 systems for defense of the capital city and four other regions including industrial center Isfahan, main naval base in Bander Abbas (the Persian Gulf), the nuclear plant in Bushehr and oil terminals in Abadan and Khorramshar.

Iran was earlier in talks to buy an S-300V top tier army air defense system. Belarus, which also has the series in its arsenal, was to supply them to from Russia a new S-300PMU-2 system in return. But this option was no longer under consideration as relations between Moscow and Minsk got sour early this year.

In December 2005 Russia and Iran struck a deal to sell 29 Tor-M1 complexes for $700 million which was to act as a shield for S-300 systems. The Kommersant source in the Russian military industry said that 'selling Tors first Moscow thought to check the world's reaction to the contract'.

The deal to deliver to Tehran five divisions of S-300PMU-1 was to be signed in March 2006. But Moscow walked out of the talks in January 2006 to protest Tehran's course on its nuclear program. Russia was hoping to sell these S-300PMU-1 complexes to Algeria. But a recent chill in Russia-Algerian relations froze the execution of the contract. So, Iran is now most likely to get these systems after all.

The sale of S-300PMU-1 to Iran will surely create new tensions between Russia and the United States. Washington was quite cool in its reaction to Moscow's delivery of Tor-M1 complexes to Tehran as the engagement range of these missiles is limited to 12km and up to altitudes of 6km. They could strike cruise missiles or controlled air bombs but not the jets themselves. To strike Tors the United States would just need fire more missiles or bombs at the target. However, the range of S-300PMU-1 reaches 300km with altitudes of up to 27km. They could make American fighters and bombers easy targets. Back in 1998 the United States supported Turkey in its protest against the Russian contract to deliver S-300PMU-1 systems to the island. Cyprus ended up buying Tor complexes and the S-300s that Cyprus bought were deployed on Crete following an agreement with Greece.

Independent analysts say that the delivery of S-300 systems to Iran meets this country's needs as well as Russia's foreign policy strategies. 'This purchase is quite logical of Iran and falls into its policy of upgrading the national air defense system,' Maxim Pyadishkin, editor of air and space publication Russia/CIS Observer, said. 'This contract also fits well into Rosoboronexport's strategy as they have always said that they do not just sell defense systems but offer defense systems ready to use.' Ivan Safranchuk, director of the Moscow office of the Global Security Institute, said that 'Russia is consistent in boosting Syria and Iran's capabilities of air self-defense'. 'This is aimed to counter plans of the Unites States for a military action in the Middle East,' Mr. Safranchuk told Kommersant. 'As soon as Moscow feels that the United States may finally decide to strike Iran, it comes forward to ease the tensions pushing Iran to continue collaboration with the IAEA on its nuclear program.'

&Russia-Iran Arms Trade

Russia was selling arms to Iran in the mid-1990s under contracts signed by the USSR. Under the 1989 agreement, Iran bought 20 MiG-29 fighters, 4 MiG-29UB training and combat jets, 12 Su-24MK bombers and two S-200VE air defense systems. These contracts were worth a total $1.3 billion. Iran also received air-air missiles. Another deal was signed in 1990 to sell to Iran four 877EKM diesel electric power-driven submarines as well as the construction of infrastructure on shore for them. The deal was worth $1.6 billion. Russia sold three submarines to Iran but failed to complete the construction of a base for them.

Under the 1990 deal, Russia was to deliver to Iran 1,000 tanks and 1,500 infantry machines some of which were to come as parts to be assembled on site. But only 422 T-72S tanks, 413 BMP-2 and ammunition all worth $668 million for them were actually dispatched to Iran.

Tehran also bought 12 Mi-17 and 5 Mi-171 helicopters. Media reported that Iran allegedly bought 100 portable anti-aircraft Igla complexes from Russia.

In 1995 a commission chaired by Al Gore and Viktor Chernomyrdin agreed for Russia to complete all military supplies to Iran by the end of 1999 under existing contracts and not have any military and technical cooperation with this country. In return, the United States gave Russia quotas for the launches of American spacecrafts. Satellite launches worth $2 billion have been set to the orbit under this agreement.

Russia resumed arms trade with Iran five years later when Russia informed the United States on November 2000 that it was walking out of the 1995 agreement. Between 2002 and 2005 Russia sold to Iran 33 Mi-171 helicopters, three Su-25 attack planes, three Mi-17V-5 in 2005. In December 2005 Russia and Iran signed a $700 million deal to sell to Iran 29 air defense systems Tor-M1 which were shipped to Iran in late 2006. Russia also agreed to upgrade Iranian Su-24 and MiG-29 jets.

In 2007, talks began to sell to Iran 50 RD-33 air engines worth an estimated $150 million and several RD-5000s. The parties were also discussing the possibility of assembling the upgraded version of the Ka-32 helicopter in Iran.