By David Daoud
Iranian Defense Minister Brig.-Gen. Hossein Dehqan claimed on Friday that Iran will be testing its locally-produced version of the S-300 missile-defense system before March 19, 2016, the end of the current Iranian calendar year.
“We expect to be able to test the production model of the S-300 by the end of the current year,” said Dehqan.
Last Saturday, Iran placed the system, which the Iranians call Bavar 373, on display during military parades held in southern Tehran. The Bavar 373 was developed by the Iranians after the Russians reneged on their promise to deliver their advanced S-300 missile defense system because U.N. Security Council sanctions prevented them from doing so, semi-official Iranian news agency Fars reported.
The Bavar 373 operates essentially like its Russian counterpart, tracking and intercepting high-altitude targets. However, the Iranians claim their locally-made version has “superior features over the original Russian model” because of the fact that it has increased “mobility, agility, and reduced launch-preparation time.”
But despite claiming Bavar 373′s superiority over Russia’s S-300, Iran welcomed the recent announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that he was lifting the ban on delivering the advanced missile defense system to the Islamic Republic.
Dehqan also noted today Iran’s readiness to receive the S-300 systems from Russia, despite Iran’s claims of producing its local model, and noted that he hoped the delivery would occur this year.
He noted that Iran has been asking for Russia to perform on its contract to sell Iran the S-300 systems since the sale was suspended six years ago, saying, “we were ready to receive the system based on the contract that we signed. Our position has always been to seek the performance of the contract.”
He said, “today, we consider the acceptance as Russia’s decision to fulfill its obligations to Iran under the S-300 contract. The question of whether we need such systems to counteract Israel, or to guarantee our nuclear security, should be considered from the perspective that every country seeks to have access to various systems that it deems necessary to meet its defense and security needs.”
Iran never “posed a threat” to its neighboring countries, he claimed, adding that Iran “respect[s] the political independence and territorial integrity of our neighboring countries, and we believe that a powerful Iran will be a promoter of stability and security in the region.”
Yet it would seem that Iran is not alone in its enthusiasm for the sale of the S-300 systems. Iranian Press TV reported that, on its end, Russia will be urging the lifting of the arms embargo against Iran during Friday’s talks over the Iranian nuclear program, according to Sergey Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister.
Ryabkov told reporters on Thursday that one of the priorities in the talks is ensuring that all countries participating in negotiations “recognize the foremost need to cancel the existing weapons embargo against Iran.” He stressed that the U.N. Security Council had the exclusive power to reimpose sanctions on Iran if it fails to fulfill its commitments under the nuclear deal.