Putin to provide advanced air defense missiles to Iran

Russian President Vladimir Putin has a sterling relationship as an always available friend for his allies, and an ever growing reputation for being a bug in the ointment for American foreign policy.

Today it was announced that a once scuppered deal to provide advanced Surface-to-Air Missiles to Iran was being reconstituted, giving Moscow a much needed cash infusion and Tehran the means to protect a good portion of their nuclear program from air attack, as has been threatened by Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israeli Administration.

The sale also could undermine the Obama administration’s efforts to sell Congress and foreign allies on the nuclear deal, which Iran and the United States are still struggling to complete. It might also reduce United States leverage in the talks by making it much more difficult for the United States or Israel to mount airstrikes against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure if the country ignored such an agreement.

“It is significant as it complicates the calculus for planning any military option involving airstrikes,” said David A. Deptula, a retired three-star general who served an Air Force’s deputy chief staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

As the relationship between Washington D.C. and Tel Aviv has become as strained as it has ever been since the founding of the modern state of Israel, the likelihood of a rouge strike by the Israeli Air Force on one or more of the Iranian nuclear sites has become more likely. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has previously given their blessing–and more importantly, access to a flight path through their air space–to the IAF if they were to take such an action. If the final agreement due on June 30 unsettles the Gulf Arab States and Israel to the point that their mutual self-interest and alienation from the US are aligned, it is a high probability that the IAF may attempt a raid mirroring those made in the 1980’s against the nascent Iraqi nuclear program.

Ultimately the logistical challenges of such a strike–flight path, weapon and fuel cargo capacity, success probability and surviveability–may be more of a determining factor whether Israel (or some combination including assets covertly or overtly provided by the Gulf Arab States) goes it alone on a bombing raid rather than placations and promises from the Obama Administration as to the virtues of any finalized Iran Nuclear Deal.

[New York Times][Wired]