Netanyahu calls Putin to warn against selling S-300 missiles to Iran

Netanyahu Putin

PM Netanyahu with Russian President Putin in 2012. (srael Sellem/Flash90)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin that selling air defense missiles to Iran threatens Middle East stability.

By:  Aryeh Savir, Staff Writer, World Israel News and AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone regarding the Kremlin’s decision to lift the ban on the sale of the advanced S-300 missile air defense system to Iran.

Netanyahu expressed Israel’s “grave concerns” regarding the Russian decision to sell the surface-to-air S-300 missiles.

The Israeli leader told Putin that this sale will “only encourage Iranian aggression in the region” and “further undermine the stability of the Middle East.”

The Kremlin reports that Putin defended the sale, positing that the missiles were only of a defensive nature. Putin “thoroughly explained the Russian leadership’s logic in that context, emphasizing the fact that the S-300 is a purely defensive system that wouldn’t jeopardize security of Israel or any other countries of the Middle East,” the Kremlin stated.

Netanyahu later stated that “this sale of advanced weaponry to Iran is the direct result of the dangerous deal on the table between Iran and the P5+1. Can anyone still seriously claim that the deal with Iran will enhance security in the Middle East?” he asked rhetorically.

Speaking on IDF Radio, Brigadier General (ret.) Yosef Kuperwasser, a former senior officer in Israeli military intelligence, explained that the Russian decision was influenced by the weakness exhibited by the US in the negotiations with Tehran regarding Iran’s nuclear program. “It reflects the feeling, held by the Russians as well, the there is an American weakness which is derived from its urgency to achieve a deal with Iran as soon as possible. This is a concerning phenomenon,” he said.

Tzvi Magen, Israel’s former ambassador to Russia, opined that the Russians have been courting the Iranians for months in an attempt to alleviate some of their financial pressure and in a bid to improve their international standing. “The Russians have been trying to lure Iran for several months with various offers. This [the sale of the S-300 missiles] is one of them,” Magen told IDF Radio. Russia is adopting a more aggressive, assertive stance, he explained, “reaching further than we have witnessed in the past.” He believes that the Russians have more plans of this nature and are preparing to execute them.

International opposition to Russia’s move

Russia said Tuesday that it would be at least six months before it could deliver the S-300 air defense missile system to Iran, but the Kremlin confirmed that a barter deal to supply Russian goods in exchange for Iranian oil was already being implemented.

S-300

An S-300 battery on parade in Moscow. (Vitaly V. Kuzmin/wikicommons)

The United States criticized Putin’s decision on Monday to lift a five-year ban on delivery of the missile system, which would give the Islamic Republic’s military a strong deterrent against any air attack on Iran.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest also said a Russian-Iranian barter deal would raise serious concerns and could interfere with sanctions that the United States and other Western nations imposed on Iran over its nuclear program.

On Tuesday, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, confirmed statements by a Russian diplomat that Moscow was already supplying Iran with various goods in exchange for oil. Peskov said this trade was not barred under the sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council.

Speaking in Luebeck on Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier criticized Russia’s decision, saying that “it is also too early to offer rewards.”