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Russia's S-300 Missiles-for-Iran Move Draws Rebukes From U.S., Israel

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday lifted a five-year ban on delivery of the S-300 air defense missile system.
/ Source: NBC News

Russia's move to lift a ban on missile sales to Iran drew objections from the U.S. and Israel, who called the move a direct result of nuclear talks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday lifted a five-year ban on delivery of the S-300 air defense missile system. It would significantly bolster the Islamic republic's military capability by providing a strong deterrent against any air attack.

The White House said Secretary of State John Kerry had raised concerns over the move in a conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf later told reporters that the U.S. has "certainly made our concerns with the sale of the S-300 system to Iran known for some time."

"We don’t believe it’s constructive at this time for Russia to move forward with this," she said Monday. "We think given Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region in places like Yemen or Syria or Lebanon that this isn’t the time to be selling these kinds of systems to them."

Israel's Cabinet minister Yuval Steinitz criticized the framework nuclear agreement agreed upon between Iran and six world powers for clearing the way.

"This is a direct result of the legitimacy that Iran obtained from the emerging nuclear deal," Steinitz said, according to The Associated Press. "Instead of demanding Iran stop its terror activities that it spreads in the Middle East and the entire world, it is being allowed to arm itself with advanced weapons that will only increase its aggression."

The S-300 is a “proven, fully-integrated system” with a maximum range of 150 km (93 miles) according to Ben Goodlad, principal weapons analyst for IHS Aerospace, Defense and Security.

"The sale of S-300 systems to Iran does not pose a direct threat to Israel however it would make any potential future air strikes by the Israeli Air Force more challenging,” Goodlad said. “Depending on the interceptor used with the system, the S-300 has a maximum range of 150 km which will provide an additional defensive tier to Iran's air defense plan.”

Russia signed the $800 million contract to sell Iran the S-300 missile system in 2007, but suspended delivery three years later because of strong objections from the United States and Israel.

Iran had responded to the Russian ban by filing a lawsuit with a court in Geneva seeking $4 billion in damages for breach of contract.

A Russian S-300 air defense missile system at a military training camp in 1996.VLADMIR MASHATIN / EPA file


— Cassandra Vinograd

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.