According to a Kuwaiti-based publication, Russia has decided to freeze its’ sale of the advanced S-300 anti-missile system to Iran, after Israeli intelligence raised concerns that such weaponry would make its way into the hands of Hezbollah.
Last April, Russia announced that it had lifted a freeze on the sale of the S-300 system, in place since 2010 following international concerns over the Tehran regime and subsequent global sanctions. The sale represents a significant upgrade to Iran’s air defence system and sparked significant concern among Israeli leaders who warned Moscow that the S-300 in Iranian hands would merely increase tensions in the region. However, Russia has insisted that the weaponry is designed purely for defensive purposes.
Last month, media reports indicated that the first S-300 delivery to Iran was imminent, although Moscow denied the claims, saying that Tehran had not yet paid for the hardware. However, the Kuwait-based al-Jarida now reports that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has decided to put the entire deal on hold. Apparently, Israel provided intelligence that other weapons sold by Moscow to Iran, such as the SA-22 short-range surface-to-air missiles, had found their way to Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, the report also claims that Russian pilots flying over Syria have repeatedly recounted that their radar systems have picked up advanced surface-to-air missile systems in Hezbollah-controlled regions on the Lebanese-Syrian border.
Israel and Russia have built what is thought to be a close dialogue regarding weapons transfers, since Moscow became actively involved in the Syria conflict. The two countries have established protocols which would avoid any misunderstandings between the Israeli and Russian militaries surrounding Syria. Israel has made clear that it will not allow weapons to be transferred to Hezbollah amid the fog of Syria’s Civil War and is thought to have carried out several air strikes to prevent such a scenario. Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon recently said that Russia respects Israel’s “freedom to act and to defend our interests.”