Russia Sells Missiles to Iran: Terrorists to Get Latest Arms

Article excerpt

Russia is selling advanced air-defense systems to Iran, including the latest version of a hand-held anti-aircraft missile that Tehran intends to provide to Hezbollah terrorists, The Washington Times has learned.

Such transactions would violate a pledge Russian President Boris Yeltsin made during the 1994 summit with President Clinton to block all new conventional arms sales to Iran.

The missile sales talks took place in February and last month between Iranian intelligence agents and Russian arms brokers in Moscow, who offered S-300 series anti-aircraft missiles for sale at discount prices, Pentagon intelligence officials said.

The talks included the proposed sale by Moscow arms dealers of up to 500 advanced "Igla" anti-aircraft missiles worth more than $50,000 each, according to U.S. intelligence information. The officials identified the missiles as SA-18s.

Other arms deals involve proposed sales of T-72 tanks and Mi-17 helicopters. They are said to include one of Russia's intelligence services. The deals are being made outside the official Russian government arms-sales agency.

The Pentagon officials said Iran's Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics is involved in buying the shoulder-fired Iglas, and plans to supply some of them to Hezbollah, the pro-Iranian group based in Lebanon that has been blamed for many international terrorist attacks.

The officials said a scientific and technical arm of the Iranian intelligence service that acquires foreign technology for Iran's weapons programs is involved in some of the weapons purchases. This indicates the weapons may be used by Tehran as models for local production.

It could not be learned whether the U.S. government has tried to halt the missile sales.

Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism official, said the Iglas would give Hezbollah more effective capabilities for attacking Israeli helicopters and jets over southern Lebanon.

"It vastly increases the risk and danger to Israeli aircraft, and because they are transportable, they could be smuggled into Israel," he said.

Hezbollah also could use the Iglas for attacks on civilian airliners, although less-capable shoulder-fired missiles already are in the hands of terrorists, Mr. Cannistraro said.

There are few reported cases of civil aircraft being shot down by shoulder-fired missiles.

Most Israeli military operations in southern Lebanon involve helicopter gunships, troop transports or U.S.-made warplanes.

The Pentagon officials said two S-300 systems with 96 missiles that were manufactured near Moscow this year are being offered to Iran for $180 million - $20 million less than the price charged by Russia's state arms exporter, Rosvooruzheniye. …