In today’s Daily Dispatch, we report on Russia’s decision to deliver its advanced S-300 missile system to Iran. This development is even more disturbing, notes The Daily Beast’s Dave Majumdar, because it would make strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities nearly impossible:
This nuke deal with Iran had better work. Because the Kremlin is lifting a ban on selling a powerful air defense system to Iran that would render an airstrike on Tehran’s nuclear weapons facilities nearly impossible.
The delivery of the new weapon, called the Almaz-Antei S-300PMU-1 — known as the SA-20 Gargoyle in NATO parlance — would effectively force the U.S. to rely on its small fleet of stealth aircraft to strike targets inside Iran in case the mullahs make a dash for the bomb. But even those aircraft might have a difficult time.
“This would be a huge deal depending on where they [the S-300s] are based…The Persian Gulf would be an interesting place to fly,” said one senior defense official with experience on multiple stealth aircraft types. “These new [surface-to-air missiles] change the whole complexion…It’s a big move…”
The Kremin’s decision now sends a signal to Tehran that the sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table are done — even before a final nuclear agreement is signed. “Clearly, this is the sanctions regime already starting to crack and fall apart in anticipation there will be an agreement [on nuclear issues with Iran] on June 30,” Conley said. “This is the first major signal that regime is coming to an end.”
From a practical military standpoint, the sale of the S-300 would directly challenge the U.S. position that “all options are on the table” should Iran try to subvert the nuclear deal. The addition of the powerful missile defense system would make punitive airstrikes against Iran extremely difficult.