Iran’s tussle with Russia over a missile deal gone awry reached soap opera territory long ago. After months of smack talk, the Mullahs have now got their money back from their erstwhile business partners in Moscow. But they don’t have their prized S-300 air defense missile. So now they’re pledging to carry on against Russia with the vilest of all asymmetric warfare tactics: a court battle.
Russia’s Rosoboronexport has now forked over Iran’s $167 million prepayment on the cancelled sale of S-300 air defense missiles. In August, it said it was making good on threats to sue the Russians over the sale and launching a lawsuit at the International Court of Arbitration. Its money returned, though, Iran is still feeling feisty and litigious.
“We have received our prepayment from Russia, but we have sent our complaint to the International Court of Arbitration to receive compensation,” Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi told Iranian state news on Wednesday. In other words, thanks for the cash, but we’d still like to see the global equivalent of Judge Judy.
Russia first agreed to sell Iran its long-range S-300 in 2007, but the deal dragged on for years without an actual missile handover. The Bush administration to sway Russia against the sale. The Obama White House also tried its hand following a diplomatic “reset” with Russia and allied pressure against the deal. In 2010, Russia finally said nyet and cancelled the sale, citing U.N. sanctions on Iran as prohibiting transfer of the missiles.
The three decade old S-300 isn’t the most advanced air defense system in the world, but it would be a big improvement over Iran’s existing air defense. They can take down airborne targets like fighter jets and later versions of the missile have a range of up to 200 kilometers. That’s enough to give countries like the U.S. and Israel pause when considering a strike on the country’s nuclear systems — hence the pressure on Russia not to sell.
But why cry over spoiled milk, Iran? You claimed last week that you’re nearing production on that backyard version of the S-300. Or could it be that your homebrew air defenses aren’t any more likely to conjur an S-300 capability than your lawsuit?