May 3rd, 2009.
DEBKAfile's Moscow sources disclose that the Russian, Iranian and Damascus governments have cooked up a scheme to get around Vladimir Putin's undertaking as president to refrain from selling Iran and Syria advanced Iskander-M cruise missiles: The transaction will go through Belarus.
Sources in Moscow and Minsk confirmed Sunday, May 3, that the Iskander-M sale to Tehran has gone through and negotiations are ongoing for Iran and Syria for another transaction: the sale of Russia's advanced S-300 anti-air anti-missile multi-targeting shield systems as well.
Western military sources have reported in the past that Israel cannot afford to allow this high-performance hardware enter operational service in Iran and Syria, because it would dangerously destabilizing the Middle East arms balance. Nonetheless, confirmation of the sale has come from the horse's mouth: Thursday, April 30, Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko stated: "I would like to implement top-level agreements with the government of Tehran. We will sacredly fulfill our agreements with Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and expect more activity in projects earmarked for joint implementation."
Lukashenko did not specify what projects he had in mind, but military sources in Minsk and Moscow confirmed he was talking about the Iskanader-M transaction.
And a short while after he spoke, the Russian news agency Ria Novosti which has a good rapport with Kremlin officials reported: "The swiftness of relation-building between the two states (Belarus and Iran) is an indication that President Lukashenko is selling the short-range missiles to Iran.
The disclosures came shortly after Iranian defense minister Mustafa Najjar visited Moscow to press the Russians for action on the Iskander sale to Tehran.
DEBKAfile's military sources note that Moscow often uses Minsk for top-of-the-line arms sales which might embarrass Moscow diplomatically – especially in the case of two such weapons going to Syria as well as Iran.
In 2005, Moscow contracted to sell Syria Iskander and S-30 systems. Part of the consignment was to be redirected from Syria to Iran. This transaction was put on ice under pressure from the United States and Israel. Now the two sales are going through via Belarus in the reverse direction: Iran will take delivery of the consignments and divert a part to Syria.
Ahmadinejad will claim the honors for announcing the breakthrough for the release of these weapons when he arrives in Damascus Tuesday, May 5, at the head of a big delegation. He has timed his visit to overshadow Israeli president Shimon Peres' meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House on the same day.
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In: Iran, News, Middle East
Tags: Iran, Syria, Belarus, Russia, Israel, Iskander-M, S-300, Tensions
Location: Minsk, Minsk, Belarus (load item map)
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