Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"... The Israelis should get the Saudis to buy them ... or else..."

Via the PULSE, here

Eli Bardenstein in Ma'ariv:

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has announced that if Israel wishes to prevent the sale of S-300 missiles to Iran, it must either buy them itself or work to have another country, Saudi Arabia for example, purchase them. An official from the Russian Foreign Ministry told Ma'ariv that Medvedev told this to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman during their meeting at the beginning of the month.

As early as the end of 2007, Russia signed a contract worth USD 800 million to supply advanced S-300 ground-to-air missiles to Iran. However, as of today, Russia has not provided the missiles themselves although the first payments have been made for them, according to Russian sources.

The S-300 system, which is also called SA-20, is the Russian version of the American Patriot battery. The advanced model of these missiles, which is carried on trucks, can bring down cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and fighter jets up to a range of 196 kilometers and an altitude of 27 kilometers. Its sophisticated version can locate one hundred targets simultaneously. IDF and security establishment officials claimed that Iran's receiving of the missiles would make an attack difficult. Former prime minister Ehud Olmert also spoke about the matter with his Russian counterpart, asking him to prevent the deal.

High-ranking Russian officials have said time and again that the deal was stopped at the political level by the Kremlin, in the wake of pressure from the United States and Israel, which claimed that this was a weapon that would damage the strategic balance in the Middle East. Medvedev reiterated this in his conversation with Lieberman, claiming that orders had been given not to complete the deal for now.

Medvedev's statements combine with the assumption in Israel that Russia is using the deal as political leverage. By means of the deal, Russia is seeking to infiltrate Israel and increase its hold in the region, politically and otherwise. The deal is also significant for relations between Russia and the United States. The recent unmanned aerial vehicle deal between Israel Aerospace Industries and Russia, which the United States approved, was interpreted as an attempt to prevent the fulfillment of the deal between Russia and Iran. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, who is responsible for defense deals in Russia, visited Israel secretly last week and met with high-ranking officials in the government and in the defense industries."

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