Iran’s S-300 Delivery Debated as Israel Delays Pre-emptive Strike Allowing Diplomatic Progress a Chance

Israeli and American military officials are now publicly differing on whether Iran will receive its pivotal S-300 Russian anti-aircraft batteries by September of this year or well into 2009, according to media reports. However, informed sources tell this reporter that while some of the first components have already arrived in Iran, they are still disassembled in boxes and undeployed. Hence, the difference between Washington and Jerusalem military sources may be parsing over the operational nature of the state-of-the-art batteries, not their actual delivery.

The S-300's potent versatility is a key factor in Israel's pre-emptive Iran strike strategy. A test of the strengths and weaknesses of a similar S-300 system by Israeli Air Force jets and drones over Crete with the cooperation of Greece, was first reported in The Cutting Edge News exclusively on July14, 2008.

Considered one of the world's most versatile radar-missile systems, Russia's S-300 batteries can simultaneously track hundreds of semi-stealth cruise missiles, long-range missiles and aircraft, including airborne monitoring jets. As many as ten intruders from as far off as 75 km can be simultaneously engaged by the S-300's mobile interceptor missile batteries, military sources say. As such, the S-300 is a major threat to the long-range weapons in the Israeli arsenal.

Following The Cutting Edge News revelations, picked up by the Jerusalem Post and other outlets worldwide, the Israeli Defense Ministry, previously mum, revealed that it was convinced the S-300s would be delivered by September via Belarus. Belarus is a common portal for controversial Russian arms shipments. Russian sources contacted by The Cutting Edge News speculated that as many as five batteries were recently delivered to Iran, these having been pulled from active Russia defense units. The transaction is thought to be valued at $800 million, an easy sum for Iran whose economy is some 75 percent empowered by oil revenues.

However, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told Reuters, "We firmly believe, based upon our understanding of the situation, that the Iranians will not be receiving that Russian anti-aircraft system this year." Morrell echoed the words of Defense Secretary Robert Gates who quipped it was "highly unlikely that those air defense missiles would be in Iranian hands any time soon."

Iran has warned that if its nuclear infrastructure is attacked, it will immediately retaliate against America's many military installations in the extended Middle East, Israel and the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of all seaborne oil traverses.

Israeli sources were allowing the latest two-week diplomatic deadline from the six-nations engaged in the nuclear controversy to lapse before making any decisions on a first strike.

Edwin Black is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of IBM and the Holocaust, and the forthcoming book, The Plan--How to Save America the Day after the Oil Stops- or Perhaps the Day Before (Dialog Press, September 2008).

The Cutting Edge

Edwin Black