[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text](Wall Street Journal) The Kremlin lifted its self-imposed ban on the delivery of a powerful air-defense installation to Iran on Monday, provoking immediate criticism from the White House and Israel.
[/vc_column_text][banner300 banner=”5517620b381df”][vc_column_text]The moves come as world powers, including the U.S. and Russia, hustle to strike a final deal with Tehran to restrain its nuclear program by a June 30 deadline.
In 2007, Russia signed a contract with Iran worth roughly $800 million to deliver a S-300 surface-to-air missile installation—a mobile, long-range system that can detect and destroy ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and low-flying aircraft. But the U.S. and Israel pushed the Kremlin to drop the deal, expressing concern that Tehran could use the sophisticated system to protect its emerging nuclear facilities from an attack.
Russia relented and in 2010, then-President Dmitry Medvedevissued a Kremlin decree prohibiting the delivery of any Russian S-300 missiles to Iran. The order brought Russia in line with United Nations Security Council sanctions passed that year, which established a broader arms embargo on Iran.
It also served as pressure for Iran to re-engage in negotiations over the dismantlement of its nuclear program, which resulted in a historic framework deal early this month.
On Monday, a decree by President Vladimir Putin posted on the Kremlin website formally removed the ban on delivering the S-300 system.
“At this stage, we believe the need for this kind of embargo, and a separate voluntary Russian embargo, has completely disappeared,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday. “I note that the S-300 air-defense missile system, which is exclusively of a defensive nature, is not suited for the purposes of attack and doesn’t threaten the security of any governments in the region, including, of course, Israel.”
U.N. sanctions don’t restrict the supply of air-defense weapons to Iran, according to Mr. Lavrov. He also stressed Iran’s defense needs.
“Taking into account the very tense situation in the surrounding area, modern air-defense systems are very important to Iran,” he said, citing the fighting in Yemen as an example. He also said Russia had lost a significant amount of money by freezing the previous deal.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the U.S. opposes Russia’s move toward missile sales to Iran, a position he said Secretary of State John Kerry had conveyed directly to Mr. Lavrov.