Israeli officials express concern at the news that Russia lifts a freeze on sale of advanced anti-aircraft system to Iran

A Russian air-defense missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, August 27, 2013A Russian air-defense missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, August 27, 2013

Iran steps up arms shipments to Hezbollah, Hamas

Israel has reacted with concern to the news that Russia has decided to lift a freeze on the sale of the S-300 advanced anti-aircraft system to Iran.

The freeze was in place since 2010 following international concerns over the Iranian regime and subsequent global sanctions.

The S-300 is said to be the best defence Iran could possess. It represents a significant upgrade to Iran’s air defence system, complicating any future potential military action against its nuclear facilities.

Speaking to the TASS news agency, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov assured that the S-300 system is “purely defensive”and “will not put at risk the security of any regional state, including Israel.” However, he also revealed that the timing of the sale came about as “We see no need to continue”withholding the advanced weaponry “given progress in talks on Iran’s nuclear program.”

It was a point emphasised in the response of Israeli leaders. Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said in a statement that “even as Iran disavows article after article in the framework agreement that was announced last week, the international community is beginning to ease restrictions on it.”

“This is the direct result of the legitimacy that Iran is receiving from the nuclear deal being made with it. This also proves that the economic momentum in Iran that will come in the wake of the lifting of the sanctions will be exploited for armaments and not used for the welfare of the Iranian people. Instead of demanding that Iran desist from the terrorist activity that it is carrying out in the Middle East and throughout the world, it is being allowed to arm itself with advanced weapons that will only increase its aggression,” he added.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aslo commented the new of the sale of Russians arms to Tehran. “The message that Iran is receiving from this is that it is not being called upon to halt its aggression, but that it can continue and even increase this aggression, and this is exactly what it is doing.”

A Channel Two report yesterday said that Israel has noted a recent increase in Iranian arms shipments to Hezbollah and to Hamas in Gaza.

US State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf commented on the Russian S-300 sale, saying “Given Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region … this is not the time to be selling those kind of systems.”

Senior Israeli officials also warned that, over the last few weeks, Iran has considerably stepped up its operations to arm Hezbollah in order to prepare its terrorist proxy for a large-scale conflict with Israel.

According to the officials, cited by Israel’s Channel 2, new intelligence has revealed that Tehran has accelerated its proxy war with Israel on all fronts. Iranian delegations have been arriving in the Gaza Strip, and in recent months, the commander of Iran’s Basij paramilitary volunteer militia spoke of arming the residents of the West Bank to rise up against Israel. Iran has reportedly already begun arming members of Hamas in the West Bank.

Iran has also been attempting to establish a new front for Hezbollah with Israel on the Golan Heights, linking it to the existing one in southern Lebanon, according to the report.

Israeli officials have said that the lifting of economic sanctions on Iran, now under discussion in talks between the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic, will release billions of dollars that Tehran will use to finance the arming of its terrorist proxies.