Although the timing on delivery remains unclear, Russia has vowed to fulfill its contract for advanced surface-to-air missiles with Iran, despite protests from the United States and other Western nations.
The Wall Street Journal explains that Russia finalized an $800 million deal for S-300 missiles with Iran in 2007, but delayed delivery under pressure from the U.S. and Israel. The Iranians filed a $4 billion suit with the International Arbitration Court in Geneva for breach of contract. The Russians announced they were lifting their self-imposed ban on delivery a few months ago, and believe the Iranians will drop their lawsuit as a result.
“The contract for the delivery of the S-300 to Iran was not only signed, but has already entered into force,” said Sergei Chemezov of Rostec Corporation, whose Rosobornexport subsidiary will provide the weapons to Iran.
The remaining detail to be cleared up is the timetable for delivery. In April, the WSJ reported Iranian officials anticipating receipt of their missiles by the end of 2015, but the Russians have said it will take a little longer than that. A BBC report on the missile sale quotes Russian officials saying “the first batch could be delivered 18 months after Iran has specified the S-300 type that it wants,” referring to the many variants of the system that are available.
One of those variants, the S-300B4, “can shoot down any medium-range missile in the world today, flies at five times the speed of sound and has a range of 400km (248 miles),” according to the BBC article. DefenseNews notes that Moscow has offered the Iranians more “modern” versions of the weapons, now that the long-delayed contract is moving forward.
The BBC notes that Saudi Arabia has joined the U.S. and Israel in denouncing the sale of these missiles to Iran. Naturally, one of the major concerns is that once Iran deploys these surface-to-air defenses, it will be much harder to act against their nuclear program, in the event they violate the disarmament plan.