Russian President Vladmir Putin announced just this Monday
that he had decided to sell surface-to-air missiles to Iran, ending an embargo
set up in 2010 by then-President Dmitry Medvedev. Is this Putin’s way of
challenging Israel and the Obama administration to act?
Russian S-300 missile air defense systems, previously
prohibited from sale to the Iranians, are operational in several other
countries. Fifteen S-300 squadrons were sold to China in 2010, the same year in which a
contract between Iran and Russia signed in 2007 for a similar sale was halted
by UN sanctions on Iran.
While the US-Iran nuclear deal remains unfinished, Russia is boldly changing the conditions that brought about Obama’s controversial negotiations in the first place. Russia
offered Iran an anti-aircraft system called Antey-2500 instead of the S-300 in
February, but Iran didn’t take the deal. According to Russian
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Obama’s nuclear deal idea made the Russian ban unnecessary.
With the Russian ban lifted and the upcoming nuclear agreement between Iran and the US coming to a close, Iran’s future looks bright indeed. Iran’s current air defense systems are weak. It’s no secret that the county couldn’t really stop an airstrike, but their defensive capabilities will increase
dramatically if they purchase S-300 technology from Russia.
For Israel, Putin’s action could mean a deadline, a countdown to attack the enemy before they acquire missile systems. An attack in the near
future would make sense, especially considering Israel’s history of attacking Syria to prevent the use of Russian missile systems. As long as Russia continues to make a profit on missile
sales and stands as a protector over the Iranian regime, which countries own or
use which weapons couldn’t be less important to Putin and Russia.