Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Russia’s duplicity in the Middle East

The dangers of supplying Iran with S-300 air defense systems
21 April, 2015 - 13:38
Photo by REUTERS

The decision of President of Russia Vladimir Putin to allow the sale of S-300s to Iran immediately prompted criticism from Israel and the US. Putin’s April 13 decree lifted the Russian embargo on supplying S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to Iran. This ban was introduced in 2010 by decree of president Dmitry Medvedev. However, it came as the Russians complied with the UN Security Council resolution that imposed an embargo on arms sales to Iran, American newspaper The Wall Street Journal reminds.

The Kremlin explains its decision by progress in the negotiations between the six powers and Iran, which took place in Lausanne in early April. According to the head of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, “the need for such an embargo, and in particular, the voluntary Russian embargo, has dis­appeared completely.”

However, Israel and the US do not see it this way. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a conversation with Putin that his decision “will only make Iran more aggressive in the region, which threatens the Middle East security.”

According to Defense Minister of Israel Moshe Yaalon, the sale of Rus­sian S-300s to Iran is a direct result of the agreement reached in Lausanne.

The Israeli media’s reaction to the news has been of interest to Ukraine. A contribution posted on the Israel Defense portal stated that Israeli politicians were considering options for deli­veries of advanced weapons to Ukraine and Georgia, as a response to Russia’s actions. “This agreement is perceived in Israel primarily as a case of defiance on Russia’s and Iran’s part, who saw weakness displayed by the West, led by US President Barack Obama,” the article reads.

Of course, Ukraine will definitely benefit from Israel’s assistance at the moment, seeing as Russia keeps supplying weapons to terrorists in the Donbas. However, this raises other questions: What concessions are Israel and its allies ready to make to “persuade” the Kremlin to cancel the sale of S-300s to Iran? Are they ready to “turn a blind eye” to the Russian aggression in Ukraine so that Russia refused to go through with its Iranian deal?

For a comment on these issues, The Day turned to former Ambassador of Ukraine to Iran Oleksandr SAMARSKY.

“Russia, as always, is duplicitous in its Iranian policy. The Iranians are well aware that Iran is no more than a bargaining chip in Russia’s dealings with the West. Since Russian foreign policy extends to almost every corner of the globe, and the Middle East is no exception, it seeks to protect its position and become stronger in the region. It fully applies to Iran as well.

“This gesture is directed primarily against the US, their interests and policies. Earlier, Russia received payment for missiles from Iran but did not deliver them. Negotiations on a refund ran for years. Now is the Russians’ chosen moment to declare their readiness to return or sell the missiles to Iran. Thus, Russia is once again looking for deals, including on the Ukrainian question. Russia cites the fact that the negotiations with Iran have progressed, and states the possibility of supplying air defense missiles to the country, thus supposedly strengthening the position of Iran in its negotiations with the West. Maybe Russia wants to disrupt the negotiations as well. Iran may also change its position.

“On the other hand, Russia may try to make some deal with the West and the US, to get something for another cancellation of its decision to supply missiles. In particular, this deal may concern the Ukrainian question.

“The Russian foreign policy is unprincipled, so you can expect any moves. Iran is well aware of it as well, with most citizens having a wary or even hostile attitude towards Russia.”

Can the Jewish lobby influence Russia into cancelling the delivery of S-300s to Iran, as it did before?

“It is about dealing rather than blocking the deal. There might have been some deals back then, too, and Russia decided not to supply arms to emphasize its weight in the eyes of the West. Therefore, outright blocking is out of question. In general, I do not think the delivery of these missiles can really change the security situation of Iran or affect its vulnerability to possible military action of the West. This entire issue is much more complicated. The situation in Iran is not that simple either. So, most likely, we will see foreign policy dealings again.”

What is the probability that the West will “concede” Ukraine to Russia in exchange for non-delivery of S-300s to Iran?

“I think our crisis has gone too far for such deals. The stage at which the West could ‘concede’ Ukraine has ended completely. For many people in the West, it is already clear that it is not Ukraine that is the problem, but rather Russia’s attempt to revive the empire and become one of the leading players in the global security order. It also wants to be a player who plays by no rules other than those it establishes itself. In other words, Russia has become a threat to global security. Ukraine thus appears a country opposing that threat...”



Brandon FRIEDMAN, an expert at the Moshe Dayan Center of Tel Aviv University:

“The Israeli public took this news bleakly. This Russian announcement is of a symbolic nature, looking more like a message to the Americans. They appear to be saying: ‘Look, Russia is a strong player, and it has the potential to affect the dynamics of negotiations and influence Iran before the agreement will be signed in June.’ I think it works on many levels. This agreement raises serious concerns about the national security of Israel.

“Moreover, Russia also considers the Iranian market to be potentially important in view of the Western sanctions against itself. In addition, Russia has the opportunity to sign a military agreement when the sanctions are lifted.

“The Israeli lobby opposes Russia delivering anti-aircraft missile systems to Iran. Israel is concerned that Iran’s capabilities will quickly increase with the agreement to be signed by the end of June.

“Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu takes seriously any news of this nature because Israel sees this as a problem for its own security. Russia repeatedly declared its readiness to deliver the missiles to Iran, with every statement followed by a lack of action. In my opi­nion, we still should wait and see whether the statement will be followed by anything more this time. Russia’s words do not equal actual delivery of S-300s to Iran.

“Now to the issue of sending Israeli arms to Ukraine and Georgia. Relations bet­ween Israel and Russia are based on mutual respect. Each side monitors the other. Israel is careful not to provoke Russia and avoid any direct involvement with the situation now existing in Ukraine.

“What will Israel do if Iran, despite everything, gets its S-300s? I think it will depend on the context, when this happens, and other circumstances. Israel will do everything in its power to prevent the anti-aircraft missile systems’ delivery to Iran, but it will involve diplomatic negotiations with Russia, just like those that took place in the past to prevent the delivery of S-300s to Iran.”

By Ihor SAMOKYSH, The Day