DESPARDES News Monitor — Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has turned down a request by Iran to purchase the advanced S-400 missile defense system, Bloomberg reported on May 30, quoting two Russian officials who chose to remain unidentified.
Reports from Russia also picked up by media in Iran’s neighbor Turkey say Putin has rejected the request over concerns about rising tensions in the Persian Gulf region where several Arab leaders voiced their concern about Iran’s ambitions.
If the news is official, then Iran’s attempt to buy the S-400 system follows comments by its military commanders in May about its new “top secret” weapons that can tackle any target.
The S-400 air and missile defense system has a range of up to 400 kilometers.
Iranian foreign minister Zarif visited Moscow in early May but the purchase of S-400 was not on his declared agenda. Russian officials reportedly said they were not authorized to comment on the matter, according to RFE/RL.
Iran currently has the previous model of the air defense system S-300.
The news comes amid regional and world powers’ sensitivity to issues surrounding the purchase of advanced air defense systems. Currently, Turkey, a NATO member and a U.S. ally, is going ahead with adding the system to its air defense grid despite objections from the US.
Iran’s case is even more complicated with tensions between Iran and the United States escalating and as regional countries are seriously concerned about Iran’s intentions post Trump sanctions and withdrawal from nuclear deal.
Russia’s refusal (if true) of Iran’s request is in spite of Tehran and Moscow’s alliance in the war in Syria. They have been strategic partners in Syria since 2011 in the campaign to save Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from that country’s civil war.
How this will affect relations between Iran and Russia is not clear, although there are reportedly some tensions between the two in Syria, says RFE/RL. Iran suffering under sanction and regionally isolated can hardly afford to risk its relations with Moscow, even if it is denied the S-400, says the report.
Bloomberg quoted Ruslan Pukhov, head of the Center of Analysis of Strategies and Technologies in Moscow as saying that if Russia provides Iran with S-400s, it will be seen as a direct challenge to Saudi Arabia and Israel, something Russia does not fancy.
Russia and Iran have created a durable alliance though, according to Alexey Pushkov, a member of the upper house of the Russian legislature and close ally of President Vladimir Putin. He told Foreign Policy that Russia would naturally ally with countries, such as Iran, which face pressure from the U.S. government. He described Russia-Iran relations as a “partnership which can evolve into a strategic relationship.”
The original article appeared in Radio Free Europe