Sources: Moscow selling missiles to Iran to protect Bushehr reactor

Publish date: September 26, 2006

Moscow, pledging to complete the Bushehr reactor, has offered to sell a range of surface-to-air missile systems to protect Iran’s nuclear facilities, the Middle East Newsline reported.

Russian diplomatic and industry sources said Moscow has been negotiating to sell Iran a range of anti-aircraft systems to protect Bushehr from Israeli or US air strikes. The sources said contracts could be signed when Bushehr was ready to begin operations in November 2007.

“Russia has already installed and manned SAM systems around Bushehr,” a diplomatic source said, as quoted by the MOSNEWS website. “The current talks regard an air defense umbrella that would protect all strategic sites in Iran.”

The missile defence system for Bushehr, if truly in the works, would not be without foundation. In 1986, the Israeli air force attacked the construction site of a reactor that Iraq was building in the town of Osirak.

After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Pentagon sources told Bellona Web that the Bushehr reactor in Iran, given its proximity to the fighting, could easily be “accidently destroyed as collateral damage.” Subsequent articles by US publications indicated that the Pentagonn was working on a plan to invade Iran to neutralize its nuclear capabilities.

In November 2005, Russia reached agreement for the sale of 29 TOR-M1 short-range anti-aircraft systems to Iran in a deal valued at more than $700 million. The sources told Middle East Newsline that Iran has also sought the strategic S-300PMU SAM system, capable of detecting and intercepting enemy aircraft at a distance of 300 and 150 kilometeres, respectively.