Putin’s Missile Could Make U.S. Attacks on Iran Nearly Impossible
by Dave Majumdar
For years, Team Obama crowed about keeping this advanced Russian missile out of Iran’s hands. Now the Kremlin suddenly seems eager to hand it over to Tehran.
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.”
According to a report from Russian state media, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Monday that would allow the sale of the fearsome S-300 air defense system to Iran.
“[The presidential] decree lifts the ban on transit through Russian territory, including airlift, and the export from the Russian Federation to the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also the transfer to the Islamic Republic of Iran outside the territory of the Russian Federation, both by sea and by air, of air defense missile systems S-300,” reads the Kremlin statement, according to RIA Novosti.
The U.S. government has lobbied Russia hard for years to prevent the sale of the S-300 to Iran. In 2010, convincing Putin to suspend the sale of the S-300 to Iran was heralded as a major foreign policy coup by the Obama administration. In many ways, it was one of the central achievements of the so-called reset in relations with Moscow, said Heather Conley, a Russia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Since then, of course, relations with Russia have cooled to nearly Cold War levels of hostility. Making life difficult for American policymakers is once again a Kremlin priority. “Mr. Putin’s policies are not designed to assist the West or to make our jobs and ability to affect policy much more difficult,” Conley said. “It’s also a reminder to Washington and other Western capitals that they have some cards to play here.”
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