Russian foreign policy as it pertains to Iran is a hall of mirrors. Information coming from Moscow or Tehran is a mixture of facts, lies, misinformation, deliberate misdirection, and wishful thinking, in some indeterminate combination. We know that Russia has helped the mullahs in their pursuit of nuclear weapons — just as they helped Saddam in his day — but the extent of that aid is not known.
Our frequent reader and commenter Tuan Jim sent this article, and included his commentary. First, from the International Herald Tribune:
Russia Denies Selling Missile System to Iran
MOSCOW: Russia is not selling Iran an advanced air-defense system, Russia’s agency for monitoring international defense cooperation said in a statement on Monday, refuting claims by an Iranian official reported Sunday that the system was already being delivered.
“Military-technical cooperation with Iran is conducted on a planned basis corresponding with agreements signed earlier and in observance of all international obligations,” the agency, the Federal Military and Technical Cooperation Service, said in a statement posted on its Web site.
“Information that has appeared in several media outlets about deliveries of the S-300 anti-aircraft system to Iran does not correspond to reality,” the statement said.
“Reality” is a rather amorphous concept when applied to Russia’s dealings with the mullahs. Considering the conflicting imperatives — to poke the United States in the eye, to preserve plausible deniability, to make a healthy profit, and to suppress the rise of Islamic extremism in Russia — it’s not surprising that all these different versions of reality arise.
The S-300, called the SA-20 in the West, is a surface-to-air missile system that can track aircraft and fire at them from more than 100 miles away.
Iran’s IRNA news agency on Sunday quoted the Iranian official, Esmail Kosari, deputy head of Parliament’s Commission for Foreign Affairs and National Security, as saying, “After a few years of talks with Russia, now the S-300 system is being delivered.”
So Iran says one thing, and Russia says another. Which is true?
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Russia’s main weapons exporter, Rosoboronexport, said in a statement on Monday that Russia supplies Iran only with defensive weapons and weapons systems, including the Tor-M1 anti-aircraft system.
“Russia conducts military-technical cooperation with Iran in strict compliance with the international commitments of the Russian Federation according to current non-proliferation regimes, and cannot be a source of concern for other countries,” the statement on the company’s Web site says.
In September, amid reports that a deal on the sale of the weapons system was near, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Andrei Nesterenko, denied that Russia would sell the missile system to Iran. “We do not intend to supply those types of armaments to countries in the region,” he was quoted as saying in the semiofficial Fars news agency of Iran.
Tuan Jim offers his analysis of the situation:
I’ve read a number of different articles on the subject today — and none of them seem to be saying the same thing. One agency says this (equipment is purchased, not shipped), one company representative says that (equipment is ordered but not assembled), a different ministry says something else (waiting on Iranian money before doing anything), one government rep (Iranian or Russian — it doesn’t matter) says something different (agreement hasn’t been signed yet). And of course the Iranians have said that they’ve already taken delivery — which ALL of the Russian accounts have denied.
Now I haven’t been following the entire story in its entirety or bothered to research anything, so it’s tough to say if this is intentional disinformation on one part or another, or if one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing, or if it’s all a play by Putin and/or Ahmadinejad to sow confusion within the West. Could be one or more or none of the above. That’s not really a clarification on anything, but it might explain some of the seemingly contradictory news stories coming out — I read multiple conflicted reports all being posted by the ITAR-TASS Russian news agency today.
I’ll let Sir Winston Churchill have the last word on this topic:
I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key.
That key is Russian national interest.