Exclusive: Moscow has no S-300 air defense missiles available for Iran. Replacements under discussion
Although Tehran celebrated President Vladimir Putin’s decision to release the S-300 missiles withheld from Iran for five years by an arms embargo, debkafile reports exclusively that Iran can’t hope to take delivery of the advanced air defense systems in the foreseeable future. The Russian military industry is already way behind meeting demands for more S-300 missiles and their radar systems for the Russian army, which has none to spare for Iran. Its own needs have soared since Russia fell out with US and Europe over the Ukraine conflict.
The Russian army lately moved S-300 batteries, which are capable of downing fighter jets and missiles, to the country’s southern border with Ukraine, as air cover for the pro-Russian separatists against Ukrainian air bombardment, which has since petered out.
Additional batteries are deployed at Russian sea and air bases on the Black Sea and Crimean Peninsula.
A further batch of S-300 missiles, as well as the S-400 from the same family, has been positioned in the Russian strategic enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, Moscow’s forward military position against Europe.
In response to US plans to install a missile shield network in East and West European countries belonging to NATO, the Russians advanced into Kaliningrad a number of short-range ballistic K720 Iskander (NATO-named SS-26 Stone9) missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
The S-300 missile batteries are in place to defend them.
debkafile’s military sources also disclose that, after five years of training one Iranian team after another in the operation of the S-300 systems, the Russians have given up on their acquiring the necessary skills.
Tehran and Moscow have still to decide, after eight years of debating, which particular missile system best suits Iran’s needs out of the S-300 family of weapons, each of whose basic six categories is designed for a particular task. Those categories employ seven types of missile, which too break down into 16-sub-types, including the S-400.
In an attempt to reach a decision, our intelligence sources in Moscow report that Iran’s National Security chief Ali Shankhani, who is currently visiting Moscow, has settled on an Iranian military delegation making an early trip to Russia, viewing the various S-300 models and returning home with recommendations. Tehran will then make its choice.
This process too could stretch out over many months. Moscow may not see eye to eye with Tehran on the type of missile to be supplied, a difficulty that would entail a fresh round of negotiations.
Given all these circumstances, it is hard to see Iran taking delivery of the first S-300 missiles any time this year, as it had hoped.
All the same, although the entire transaction is in the air, the US and Israel made big play of protesting the Kremlin’s decision to end its embargo on the S-300s for Iran. When Secretary of State John Kerry talked about it to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Monday, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu phoned President Putin Tuesday, both were perfectly aware that the batteries would not be making their way to Tehran any time in the near future.