Iran: Putin Explains to Israel’s Netanyahu: Air Defense System is, like, Defensive

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Tuesday with regard to the Russian Federation’s decision to go ahead with the sale to Iran of S-300 anti-aircraft batteries.

Iran bought the batteries several years ago, but delivery was delayed by Moscow because of US and international pressure. The US has led the imposition of severe economic sanctions on Iran, perhaps the most severe ever applied to any country in modern history, including having Iran kicked off the SWIFT bank exchange.

In deference to US wishes, Russia did not ship the system.

Two things have now changed. First, Russia and the US are not getting along nearly as well in the wake of the Russian annexation (or reclaiming, from Moscow’s point of view) of Crimea from Ukraine and its support for ethnically Russian fighters in Ukraine’s east. In fact, the US has begun imposing sanctions on Russia. In turn, Russia no longer has great regard for US wishes.

Second, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany have concluded a framework agreement permitting Iran’s civilian nuclear enrichment program, which is aimed at imposing inspections and equipment restrictions that would make it very difficult if not impossible for Iran to break out and create a nuclear weapon. Russia and China have been the least supportive of severe sanctions on Iran, and Russia appears to have decided that since the negotiations have reached a serious phase, it is time to go ahead with this deal, concluded some time ago.

The announcement alarmed Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, whose government has often hinted around that it might bomb Iran.

The Putin government issued a communique that “gave a detailed explanation of the logic behind Russia’s decision…emphasizing the fact that the tactical and technical specifications of the S-300 system make it a purely defensive weapon; therefore, it would not pose any threat to the security of Israel or other countries in the Middle East.

The full implications of the sale are difficult to anticipate because there are several kinds of S-300 systems and we don’t know which exactly is the one that Iran will get.

But it certainly is the case that S-300s are not offensive weapons and they could not be used to launch a war of aggression.

Why, then, would Netanyahu be so upset about the deal going through? Because he wants to keep an Israeli bombing run on the table.

The S-300s would make it much harder for Israel to initiate an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Such an attack on enrichment facilities in Natanz would be horrible in any case, releasing redioactive material into the atmosphere and killing or sickening tens of thousands in Isfahan.

This exchange points to the future and underscores the ways that, once Iran is talking to the West, it becomes difficult for any of the players to simply lash out.

Related video:

Wochit News: “Israel’s Netanyahu Protests Russian Plans to Sell Advanced Missiles To Iran ”

33 Responses

  1. From a strictly pragmatic POV, however, these missiles might significantly impede the or-else provisions of a potential agreement. This adds significant power to the arguments of those trying to destroy a deal.

    As I understand it, a properly drawn agreement would give the West a year to “do something,” before Iran could come up with a weapon. Notwithstanding other Iranian defensive capabilities, this deployment might effectively neuter the kinetic options the Usual Suspects are so fond of.

    Russia really doesn’t need this deal, having a realistic and balanced view of the Iranian Threat (sic), unlike the US, which will sacrifice its self-interests to those of third-party nationals. It also serves Russian interests to have the US pre-occupied with Iran, if not bogged down in direct conflict, as they pursue genuinely critical interests they have in the Ukraine.

    • If we make a worst case scenario that Iran has a bomb or two or ten, they would commit suicide if they used one on Israel. This controversy is diversion from Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinians.

    • Putin has been waiting a long time to play this card. Unfortunately for him, he is running out of cards.

      • Putin is in charge of the biggest nuclear arsenal in the world and some very good military equipment (as well as a lot that isn’t so good.) Sanctions are pushing him to find new markets and suppliers outside the EU and North America, which in the short term is hard but in the long term will give Russia’s economy more diversity. He’s lost a few of his old cards but he may be picking up some new ones. He may not be nice (what world leader is?) but he’s not a fool.

  2. Iranian President Rouhani and the Supreme Leader are saying no nuclear deal without an immediate end to all sanctions. Bibi Netanyahu wants the nuclear deal to fall apart because he wants war, not just an Israeli bombing run which would only set back Iran a year or two. Netanyahu really wants American troops sent into Iran and eventual regime change. A BIG WAR IS ON BIBI’S TABLE. Why think small since this opportunity will not happen again?

    Netanyahu knows Putin sending Russian S-300s to Iran will make his war plans much more complicated. Putin once said any attack on Iran is like an attack on Russia. Iran and Russia are getting prepared for war with the United States and Israel.

    I don’t blame them. They better get ready for it.

    p.s. The Republican hawks will want to use some of those troops in Ukraine just in case Putin has plans to send Rooskie troops to Iran. Republicans like war. The bigger, the better.

  3. Here is a an article from in which the author quotes Wolfowitz gloating that the US can invade or attack anyone we want and a weakened Russia will not retaliate. It makes you sick to see how the neocons glory in the fact that thousands of Muslims are dying each day in clashes between different religious and political sects and that an inflamed middle east suits them just fine. They are some heartless b##tards. link to

    • That was early nineties, immediately post Gulf War I. At the time the American administration was so flush it even tried to push Israel around.

      With all due respect to Wolfie, he I believe he also said he thought they’d have 5-10 years to get the job done. This atmosphere seems to also have generated the clean-break memorandum and all the glory that was to follow.
      link to

  4. “The S-300s would make it much harder for Israel AND THE UNITED STATES to initiate an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Such an attack on enrichment facilities in Natanz would be horrible in any case, releasing radioactive material into the atmosphere and killing or sickening tens of thousands in Isfahan.”
    Fixed that for ya,

  5. Recently, Dov Zakheim made a statement that even if Iran were to have a bomb that Iran would have a one percent chance of using it effectively against Israel. He stated however Israel had a one hundred percent chance of destroying Iran. So, now that Iran will have the Russian made S300 will this decrease Iran’s protection to less that one hundredth of a percent? Also, Israel has U.S. made Patriot missiles to defend them from any attack.

    • Some rescue personnel have said on news videos and some theorists have written that the MH17 crash victims’ bodies were decomposing and mostly bloodless when first examined after the crash. Could it be that they were the passengers of flight MH370? Diego Garcia was also mentioned as the possible island where the disappeared flight MH370 ended up landing without being spotted on any trafic control radars… After all the US invested 5 G$ in the Ukraine coup, and Nuland had nice words against the EU as a consequence of the planned US coup. Now it is said that Biden’s son has an oil fracking deal in Ukraine, and the son of the US-chosen Ukraine new president will play an important role in gas fracking in Ukraine also. I think the Ukrainians will wake up too late from that US-made nightmare, the new century American Nightmare… Let’s hope no psycho prez is going to push his luck by pushing the Armageddon buttons…

  6. It’s hard to say any one Glenn Greenwald posting is more exceptional that the others, but todays was a doozey:

    link to

    It is a discussion of a new poll showing how many Americans would put the interests of Israel BEFORE those of the US.

    It’s hard to get more profound than that. With the logic that drives this fealty it isn’t hard to imagine how Iran improving its defenses could easily be sold as an existential threat to Israel.

    Color me anti-Semitic, but I think there really is a serious national security threat to the US in the Middle East, and it isn’t Iran.

    • The poll says Republicans support the interests of Israel by a 2-1 margin and Democrats just the opposite. Many of those Republicans supporting Israel are waiting on the End Times spelled out in the Book of John. They want Armageddon, the Final Battle between Good and Evil. Those bible people are really tired of waiting.

      Bringing Jesus back by dropping nucular bombs. The south pole would be ideal. Lots of water.

      • Yes Ethan, I thought so as well. One thing that always surprises me, though, is the dearth of Zionists that show up in TI comments section. In fact, TI only has one pro-Israel guy there, I think, what do you think is up with that? Can’t TI find some new blood?

    • One shouldn’t take the Bloomberg Politics poll results too seriously. If the respondents had based their answers on the toss of a coin you would expect similar results. It’s a peculiarity of our age that everyone is assumed to have opinions on everything. These hypothetical choices are not true alternatives nor do the given answers necessarily reflect deeply held convictions. Should the US send troops to defend illegal settlements in occupied Palestine? Might be a more illuminating question.

      • Methodology makes all the difference, I agree. We’d hope the polling being used by decision makers is better, assuming their actions should be driven by polls at all.

  7. This may be more than just a Russian ploy.The chiefs of the security councils of the member states of the Shanghai Cooperative Organization were meeting in Moscow at the time

  8. If anyone has doubts about Iranian development of nuclear weapons as rational and justifiable behavior the reaction of Netanyahu to the Russian air defense system makes the issue crystal clear. The Israelis believe they have the right to force Iran to leave itself vulnerable to Israeli attacks whenever the Israelis decide such attacks serve their interest. In effect Iran would be converted to an enormous Gaza Strip, open to Israeli military action at the time and circumstances of Israel’s choosing. This becomes problemmatic with a meaningful air defense system and even more dubious if Iran has a significant retalitatory capability. Our greatest hope for avoiding a huge and tragic military disaster in the Middle East may be, ironically, not blocking Iranian access to nuclear weapons but accelerating Iranian access to check-mate Israeli militarism.

    Certainly I am aware that Iranian access to nuclear capability will provoke states such as Saudi Arabia or Turkey to seek parity, increasing the risk of leakage to dangerous non-state actors. And it is for this reason the United States should sign a mutual defense pact with Iran, placing Americans in Iran as some assurance that an attack on Iran by third parties would trigger US retaliation. if we do not want the Iranians to have nuclear weapons we owe them a defense against all threats, including Israel.

  9. Regarding “Two things. First…..” should read if you are fact based: Russia and the US are not getting along nearly as well in the wake of the illegal U.S. coup of the elected government of Ukraine, and it’s replace with neo-nazis who advocate ethnic cleansing of the millions of Russian speaking Ukrainians who live in the east who have been there for some 300 years. And general U.S. belligerence and aggression towards Russia.”

    And here is a shockingly psychologically healthy statement from someone very sane:

    “President Vladimir Putin says the West must respect Russia’s interests if it wants to normalize diplomatic relations.

    Putin said Thursday during a televised call-in show that the United States “doesn’t need allies, they only need vassals.” He said Russia would never accept that role and urged the West to take Russian interests into account.

    Russia-West ties have plummeted to post-Cold War lows amid the Ukrainian crisis. The U.S. and the European Union have slapped Russia with sanctions over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and support for insurgents in eastern Ukraine.

    Putin said that “it’s useless and senseless to put pressure on Russia using those means.”

    He said Russia remains ready to normalize ties with the West, and doesn’t consider any nation its enemy.”

  10. Note to Bibi: those anti-aircraft guns won’t “threaten Israel” unless Israel, ya know, flies its bombers and fighters over Iran and opens fire.

    • Not guns, but very fast surface-to-air anti-aircraft and anti-ballistic missile missiles, travelling at mach 6 to mach 8.5 depending on the improved model, and being able to destroy 6 targets in one launch…

  11. Hardly “purely” defensive. By acting to thwart Israel’s ability to respond, the weapons facilitate Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb.

    • It would be more true to say nothing can be “purely” defensive if it serves to frustrate an opponent’s plans and limits their options. Not that I have any special sympathy for Iran, or Israel.

      It’s also more than hair-splitting to differentiate between “defending” the possible development of a nuclear weapon and “facilitating” the path to a weapon’s development.

      Words make a difference if you’re in the reality business. Nudge the shading of a word here, and one on the next line there, and you can develop some rather breathtaking scenarios and rationalizations. For example, just listen critically to pretty much anything Netanyahu says.

      The fact is Israel has always had plenty of options for dealing with its neighbors and its rather threadbare legitimacy, which could have been better enhanced over the past 50+ years if it had not pursued its offensive options, empowered by twisted rhetoric, with such enthusiasm.

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