Russia lifts ban on advanced air defense to Iran

April 14 23:27 2015

Secretary of State John Kerry, members of Congress and Israeli leaders are protesting a decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to lift a ban on transferring one of the world’s most advanced anti-aircraft systems to Iran. The decision reverses a 2010 Russian ban and is effective immediately, according to Russian state-owned media site

The reversal comes less than two weeks after Iran reached a framework agreement with world powers, including Russia and the United States, on limiting its nuclear program in return for lifting economic sanctions. Israel, which opposes the deal and says Iran may still try to develop a nuclear bomb in secret, has threatened to use military force to prevent Ithat from happening.

However, the advanced defense system Putin agreed to deliver would make an Israeli attack even more difficult than it already would be. Kerry expressed his concerns Monday in a call with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf. “We don’t believe it’s constructive at this time for Russia to move forward with this,” Harf said.

Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s intelligence minister, said the Russian decision is evidence that a framework agreement on curbing Iran’s nuclear program, announced April 2 in Switzerland, helped legitimize Iran and led to Putin’s decision. “Instead of demanding Iran put an end to the terrorism it instigates in the Mideast and around the world, it is being allowed to attain advanced arms which will only spur its aggressions,” Steinitz said.

Lavrov said the decision was made due to “substantial progress” in negotiations between world powers and Iran on curbing that country’s nuclear program, and because Iran is now at greater risk due to increased tensions among neighboring countries. Iranian-backed Houthi forces in Yemen are fighting a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states. Lavrov implied that fighting could escalate into a direct conflict between Iran, which lacks an effective air force, and Saudi Arabia, which is armed with advanced U.S. aircraft.