Following Russian confirmation that Hezbollah has already gained possession of Iranian missiles not intended for them, Moscow has accepted diplomatic requests by Israel to freeze controversial sale of heavy anti-air missiles to Iran.
By David Rosenberg
Russian President Vladimir Putin has frozen missiles bound for Iran amid Israeli protest of the sale, the Kuwaiti paper Al-Jarida reports.
According to the report, an order of S-300 heavy surface-to-air missiles purchased by Iran has been put on hold by the Russian leader following talks with Israeli officials.
Israel criticized the sale, claiming that at least some of the S-300 missiles would likely fall into the hands of the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon. The presence of long-range anti-aircraft missiles along Israel’s border would threaten both military and civilian flights inside Israel.
According to Al-Jarida, Russia halted the shipment of the missiles after Israel provided evidence that other surface-to-air missiles sold by Russia to Iran had ended up in Hezbollah’s hands.
Russian pilots operating in the area confirmed Israel’s claims, positively identifying SA-22 missile batteries in Hezbollah-controlled territory in Lebanon.
Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, military ties between Russia, Syria, and Iran have tightened, with increased sales of advanced weapons and even direct intervention by Russian forces in the area.
With the release of billions of dollars in frozen assets and the end of economic sanctions, Iran has placed large orders for Russian-made heavy weaponry, including missiles, warplanes, submarines, and tanks.
However, Israel’s own ties with Moscow have similarly strengthened, with Russia granting the Israel Air Force freedom to operate over Syria against threats to the Jewish state, while Israel has, among other things, granted Russian aircraft permission to use Israeli air space in their battle against Islamist rebels.
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