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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Weapons Transfers to Iran

Bill Gertz
The Washington Times

23 April 1997

This article was inserted into the Congressional Record by Representative Solomon on 23 April 1997.

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.

  • The systems are either advanced SA-10s or the newer SA-12, both part of the S-300 series--weapons that are very effective against warplanes and have some capabilities for shooting down short-range missiles .

  • The S-300s would be delivered in two shipments within a year of signing a contract, the officials said.

  • The February talks between Iranian officials and Russian arms brokers involved the sale of three older SA-10 systems and 36 missiles worth about $90 million.

  • That deal, for SA-10s from components in Russia, Croatia and Kazakhstan, fell through but is now being brokered by a colonel in the Kazakh army, the Pentagon officials said.

  • The SAMs would vastly improve Iran's air defenses, which now include U.S.-made Hawks and older Russian and Chinese SA-2 and SA-5 systems.

  • Iran is in the process of building up a nationwide air defense system and recently purchased several advanced air defense radars from China capable of tracking up to 100 targets simultaneously.

  • According to the publication `Russia's Arms Catalogue,' produced by the Russian Defense Ministry, the advanced S-300 has a range of three to 92 miles; the Igla has a range of 30 feet to about 10,500 feet.

  • Iranian intelligence agents also are trying to buy tanks and helicopters from unofficial Russian arms brokers. The Pentagon officials said the tanks probably are T-72s and the helicopters are Mi-17 transports.

  • Disclosure of the secret Iran-Russia arms deals comes as Iranian government officials are visiting Russia.

  • Mr. Yeltsin met Friday in Moscow with Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri and said cooperation between the two countries was `good, positive and with a tendency toward growth.'

  • The speaker, a possible presidential candidate in upcoming elections, signed several industrial, cultural and scientific agreements, including a pact to coproduce Tupulev jetliners.

  • Russia is Iran's largest arms supplier and has sold three Kilo-class submarines, several squadrons of MiG-29 fighter-bombers and related missiles .

  • Russian officials say Iranian military contracts with Rosvooruzheniye are worth about $1 billion a year; they noted that in 1995 Moscow and Tehran signed an $800 million deal for nuclear reactors to be built in Iran.

  • The United States has tried in vain to stop Moscow from selling the reactors.

  • In February, Vice President Al Gore complained to Russian officials about the country's transfer of SS-4 medium-range missile technology to Iran. Russian Prime Minister Victor Chernomydrin reportedly denied any SS-4 technology had been sold to Iran, because it would have violated Mr. Yeltsin's pledge not to conclude new arms deals with Tehran.

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