Russia says missile deal with Iran will not happen in near future

Gabe Friedman

(JTA) — Russia will not sell Iran advanced surface-to-air missiles in the near future, Russia’s deputy foreign minister said.

Russia earlier this month said it would lift its embargo on the sale of S-300 missile systems to Iran, antagonizing Israel and the United States. The advanced missile defense system could reinforce Iran’s protection of its nuclear facilities.

“I do not think that it is a matter of the near future,” Sergey Ryabkov told Russia’s Tass news service on Thursday. “It is far more important that a political and legal decision has been taken to open up such an opportunity.”

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Ryabkov was referring to the framework nuclear deal signed last month between Iran and six world powers, including Russia.

The White House claimed that Russia’s missile sale to Iran could derail the completion of the Iran nuclear deal, and Israel argued that it was evidence of Iran’s aggressive motives in the Middle East. In response to Russia’s sale, Israel floated the idea of selling arms to Ukraine.

“Israel views with utmost gravity the supply of S-300 missiles from Russia to Iran,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last Sunday. “Especially at a time when Iran is stepping up its aggression in the region and around the borders of the State of Israel.”

Russia made a deal to sell Iran the missiles in 2007, but backed off off following strong opposition from the United States and Israel.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama said that the U.S. could penetrate the S-300 system.

“Our defense budget is somewhere just a little under $600 billion. Theirs is a little over $17 billion,” Obama said of Iran on MSNBC’s “Hardball With Chris Matthews.” “Even if they’ve got some air defense systems, if we had to, we could penetrate them.”