Ron Ben-Yishai

So who’s telling the truth?

Is Russia indeed supplying advanced missile system to Iran, as Tehran claims?

Part 1 of analysis


So who should we believe? Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his ministry's spokesman, who only a few weeks ago declared that Russia will not be selling Iran the advanced S-300 missile system, or deputy chairman of Iran’s parliamentary commission on national security, Esmaeil Kosari, who on Sunday announced that Russia already started implementing the deal?


According to Kosari, Russia is already transferring to Iran components of the advanced interception system, which according to experts could greatly hinder an Israeli or American aerial strike aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program.


Seemingly, one of the sides is lying, either the Iranians or the Russians. Yet a thorough examination of the official declarations on the subject, as well as publications in the Russian and Iranian media raises yet another possibility: It is certainly possible that both sides - in technical terms at least - are telling the truth. But not the whole truth.


The explanation to this has to do with the fact that any such missile system is made up of several basic components. Those include radar, a control center, the missiles and their launch vehicles, peripheral equipment, and a logistic system.


It is very possible that the Russians are not providing the Iranians with the entire system for the time being, but rather, for example, only the radar and other peripheral equipment. The modern and advanced radar of the system, should it be possessed by Iran, already upgrades its air defenses. It also allows for the operational deployment of the missiles and other system components within a short period of time, if and when Russia decides to supply the Iranians with the entire S-300 system.


Information received in the West and published by the media informs us that Iranian operators are already training in Russia on using the S-300 system. A hint that this is in fact what the Russians are doing can be found in the words of the Iranian deputy chairman of the national security committee. Kosari told the Iranian news agency Sunday that his country is starting to receive components of the system. He did not say that the missiles themselves have arrived.


And so, the Russians were able to tell a Western source less than a week ago that they are not supplying the missiles, yet in practice also meet their obligations in line with the missile acquisition deal signed by President Putin and Iran's defense minister exactly a year ago in Moscow.


The Russians conducted themselves in a similar fashion in the deal signed with Tehran for supplying fuel to the nuclear reactor they built for the Iranians in Bushehr. There is no reason why the Russians will not do the same this time around.


We must keep in mind that despite the delays in the abovementioned deal, Russia ultimately delivered the goods. We can assume that this will be the case with the S-300 missiles as well - on condition, of course, that the Iranians pay the full price of the deal, estimated at $1 billion.


Part 2 of analysis to be published Monday evening


פרסום ראשון: 12.22.08, 12:10
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