Russia Still Unsure on Delivery Date of S-300 Missile System to Iran

Iran first signed a contract with Russia for the delivery of the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system in 2007, only for delivery to be blocked by UN imposed sanctions

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Russia is still unable to give an exact date for the delivery of its the medium-range S-300 anti-aircraft missile (SAMs) system to Iran, as it depends on the efficiency of defense enterprises, Deputy Secretary of the Russian Security Council Yevgeny Lukyanov, has said.

“These systems are not built in advance, and so delivery will depend on the production cycle,” Lukyanov told TASS reporters.

Iran first made its interest in acquiring the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system known in November 2003. At the time, media reports said Iran was considering using the S-300 for the protection of its nuclear facilities in Bushehr. However, protracted negotiations meant that it wasn't until December 2007 that Iran's then Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar announced the signing of a contract with Rosoboronexport to deliver at least five S-300 batteries.

However, events were overtaken by the UN Security Council, which adopted Resolution 1929 on June 9, 2010 that called for the introduction of sanctions against Iran, including a ban on the supply of missiles and missile systems. Then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev promptly signed a decree on measures to implement the resolution, which forced the sale of the S-300 system to be postponed indefinitely.

In 2011, Iran complained that the delivery of S-300 should not be subject to sanctions, since the contract was signed prior to their imposition. It announced it plans to sue Rosoboronexport, and Russia promptly returned $166 million that Iran had paid as a deposit on the S-300.

Fast-forward to February 2015, and Iran's ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanai said the country still considers the contract with Russia to be in force, adding that it hoped to receive the S-300 or a more modern system soon.

Those hopes were raised when President Vladmir Putin finally signed a decree lifting the ban on the delivery of missiles to Iran. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the decision was taken in order to "encourage a constructive process of negotiations on settlement of the situation around the Iranian nuclear program." The Minister stressed that the S-300 is a purely defensive system and cannot adapted for the purposes of attack.

According to Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, the contract first signed in 2007 is now being finalized.

Israeli officials unsurprisingly reacted angrily to Moscow's decision to lift the embargo, but the U.S. State Department admitted that Russia was not in violation of sanctions imposed against Iran by the UN Security Council. Nevertheless, it did express “concern” at the development.

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