Russia on Tuesday vehemently denied that a cargo ship whose supposed seizure by pirates sparked an international mystery was carrying sophisticated Russian anti-aircraft missiles bound for Iran.If the rumors are true, I guess the next question is whether the Russian government has control of its arms shipments. Which, of course, if the the stories are true appears not to be the case.
A British newspaper reported at the weekend that the Arctic Sea had been carrying a batch of S-300 missiles, as conspiracy theories swirl over the ship's mysterious disappearance and reappearance.
"Regarding the S-300s on board the Arctic Sea, this is absolutely untrue," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters, when asked if the ship was secretly carrying the advanced Russian-made missiles to Iran.
The Arctic Sea, a Maltese-flagged vessel with a Russian crew, was hijacked near Sweden in late July before it was recovered by the Russian navy in the Atlantic Ocean several weeks later.
Lavrov said representatives of Malta, the flag government of the Arctic Sea, would be invited to take part in the inspection.
"Everything will be done transparently. I hope everyone will be convinced that the rumours you are referring to are absolutely groundless," Lavrov said in response to the reporter's question.
This weekend the Sunday Times of London, citing Russian and Israeli sources, reported that Israel's Mossad intelligence service had learned the ship was carrying S-300s to Iran and worked with Moscow to stop the shipment.
After all, Russia and Iran seem to have reached an agreement under which Russia will provide Iran with S-300 missiles, as reported here:
Deputy Head of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee in Iran's Majlis Ismail Kowsari said Sunday that Tehran has reached an agreement with Moscow on the delivery of the advanced S-300 surface-to-air missile system after years of negotiations.Of course, that "100 ballistic missiles and aircraft at once" part assumes you have 100 missiles to shoot and they all work correctly.
""The missile system would be used to enhance Iran's defense capabilities and to protect the country's sovereignty,"" Kowsari told IRNA.
The confirmation came after Haaretz reported on Tuesday that Israel would send the head of political military policy in the Israeli Defense Ministry, Major General Amos Gilad, to press the Kremlin not to supply Iran with S-300 missile defense systems.
The Iranian official responded, however, that Israeli reactions to Tehran-Moscow military cooperation would not affect the deal.
Later on Wednesday, Russia announced that it is fulfilling the controversial deal and would deliver the anti-aircraft system to Iran.
""Moscow has earlier met its obligations on supplying Tor-M1 systems to Iran and is currently implementing a contract to deliver S-300 systems,"" RIA Novosti quoted an unnamed Russian source as saying.
Western countries have criticized Russian sales of defensive military equipment to Iran, saying that such deals have sabotaged efforts to retard Iranian nuclear progress.
The advance version of the S-300 system, the S-300PMU1 (SA-20 Gargoyle), can intercept 100 ballistic missiles and aircraft at once, at low and high altitudes within a range of over 150 kilometers.
According to intelligence officials familiar with the defense capabilities of the S-300, the missile system would effectively rule out an Israeli war against Iran.