DEBKAfile Special Report
December 18, 2008, 9:55 AM (GMT+02:00)
Russian S-300s on way to guarding Iran's nuclear sites
Despite the efforts of US and Israeli leaders, Moscow has begun delivering the highly sophisticated medium-range air defense S-300 system to Iran for securing its nuclear and strategic sites against potential attack.
The RIA news agency reported Wednesday night, Dec. 18: "Moscow has earlier met its obligations to supply Tor-M1 (short-range) systems to Iran and is currently implementing its contract to deliver S-300 systems."
DEBKAfile's military sources disclose the S-300 deliveries began two weeks ago.
Their installation, coinciding with the return home of members of Iranian air defense officers from training in Russia, means that air or missile attacks on Iranian sites will henceforth be extremely difficult and carry a high price.
On 9th October, DEBKAfile's Moscow sources reported that Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert failed in the key mission of his trip to persuade Russian leaders to refrain from selling this advanced weapon to Iran and Syria.
On July 9, US Secretary of State Robert Gates said: "Based on what I know, it's highly unlikely that those air defense missiles would be in Iranian hands any time soon." Clearly, Gates was misinformed and his intelligence wrong, since five months on, those missiles are on their way to Iran.
While both the Bush administration and Israeli leaders insisted that a military option remained on the table if Iran persisted in its nuclear weapons program, neither took into account that Tehran was not deterred or standing idle.
This week, the Israeli defense ministry announced that Amos Gilead, a high official, would travel to Moscow Wednesday, Dec. 17 in a final bid to hold the Kremlin's hand. But Olmert and defense minister Ehud Barak had missed another boat.
DEBKAfile's military and intelligence sources report that after Iran, Moscow will install the S-300 in Syria, focusing on securing the Russian naval bases going up in the Mediterranean port of Tartous. By selling these countries top-line weaponry, Moscow is strengthening its military presence and influence in two Middle East countries of especial interest to the United States and Israel – a tactic Soviet Russian employed in the Cold War.