With the delivery of an advanced air defense system to Iran long overdue by Russia, Tehran says it is capable of mass-producing replicas of the controversial Russian-made missile in the near future.
Speaking to Mehr News Agency on Saturday, Head of Iran’s Foreign Policy and National Security Commission in Parliament Alaeddin Boroujerdi said Tehran and Russia have a long history of military cooperation and it is crucial that Russia honors its commitments with respect to Iran.
“The Russians should meet their commitment on the delivery of the missile system, which will only be used to defend the country’s territory,” said the Iranian lawmaker.
He was referring to the Russian-made S-300 surface-to-air missile system, which can track targets and fire at aircraft 120 km (75 miles) away, features high jamming immunity and is able to simultaneously engage up to 100 targets.
Boroujerdi went on to warn Russia that “Iran is not a country which would stop short of action in dealing with countries who fail to deliver on their promises.”
He said that while the Islamic Republic will be able to mass produce the system in the near future, Russia’s commitment to the deal could lay the ground for future cooperation.
The remarks come as Russia and Iran clinched a deal on the sale of S-300 system in December 2007. Unofficial reports claim that the Russian-Iranian contract on the sale of the S-300 missiles is worth $800 million.
The delay on the delivery of the system comes as earlier in September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a secret trip to Moscow during which he is believed to have discussed with Russian leaders measures to hold off on providing the ultramodern anti-aircraft missiles to Iran.
After the media spilled the beans on the controversial visit, Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, refused to deny the reports about the Israeli official’s secret trip.
“I am only going to say: to verify the rumor you should go to the source of the rumor,” he said. “Our co-operation with Iran is quite legitimate. We are not selling offensive weapons to Iran.”
Lavrov described the S-300 system as purely defensive, adding, “As far as the trade of military elements goes, Russia has not violated [its] international obligations.”
Despite the remarks by the Russian foreign minister, Russia has yet to deliver the system to Iran and military officials in Moscow are yet to give an explanation about the delay.
Meanwhile, as rumors began to circulate that Moscow had scrapped the deal, deputy director for Russia’s federal service for military-technical cooperation Konstantin Biryulin said on Thursday that the matter was still under consideration despite mounting Western pressure over military dealings with Iran.
“The issue of S-300 deliveries is still under discussion,” he was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.
Reacting to the delay, a top Iranian military official urged Russia on Friday to honor its military contract with the Tehran government and deliver the promised S-300 surface-to-air missiles.
Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, said that Moscow was now six months late in delivering the S-300 missiles to Tehran.
“Don’t the Russian [political and military] strategists consider the geopolitical significance of Iran in ensuring Russia’s security,” asked Firouzabadi.
Iran says it has opted to acquire the sophisticated S-300 defense system — which, according to Western experts, would rule out the possibility of an Israeli airstrike on Iranian nuclear sites — to protect the country in case of any such attack.
Israel has repeatedly threatened to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, including the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz or the country’s first atomic power plant, which has been under construction by Russian workers in Bushehr for years, arguing that the country’s nuclear activities are an existential threat to Tel Aviv’s security.
This is while Tehran says its nuclear program is aimed at the civilian applications of the technology and has called for the removal of weapons of mass destruction from across the globe.