Friday, May 31, 2013

Delivery of S-300 to Syria in Doubt

Despite a claim by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday that Russia has already delivered the first batch of Russian S-300 air defense system, Russian arms industry officials said today that Moscow could delay or suspend the delivery of the missiles.

“Regarding the deliveries of the S-300, they can begin no earlier than the autumn,” a Russian arms industry official said. “Technically it's possible, but much will depend on how the situation develops in the region and the position of Western countries.” (Reuters, 31 May)

Russia’s Interfax also quoted arms industry officials as saying Russia “did not exclude that the delivery of the S-300 to Syria could be frozen for a period of time.” (Interfax/Reuters, 31 May)

Israeli officials had said that Syria still had not received the first consignment of Russian S-300 anti-missile batteries. In fact Assad was reacting to a comment by Israel’s National Security Adviser Yakov Amidror on the subject when he said during an interview with Al Manar TV that the first units of missile batteries had arrived.

Israel has also said it will destroy the missiles before they are operational. Haaretz has quoted Amidror as telling European diplomats that Israel would “prevent the S-300 missiles from becoming operational.” (Haaretz/Reuters, 31 May)

Syria has reportedly purchased four units of the S-300PMU-2 system for nearly $1 billion. Russian daily Vedomosti reported the sale this week. It is the delivery of the first of the four units of the systems that is in doubt. The S-300 can track targets up to 300 km (190 miles) away and can hit at a range of up to 200 km.

File photo: S-300 batteries (Al Arabiya)

Iran Presidential Candidates Take Part in First Debate

The eight men who were selected by the Guardian Council last week to run for president in the 14 June election are holding their first televised debate today. The debate started moments ago and the candidates will each respond to a series of questions on the country’s economic situation, its nuclear program, relations with the West and a number of domestic issues. Two more televised debates are scheduled for Wednesday and Friday.

The eight chosen candidates are:
  • Mohammad Reza Aref, former First Vice President
  • Qolam-Ali Haddad-Adel, Member of Majlis
  • Saeed Jalili, Supreme National Security Council
  • Mohsen Rezaie, Expediency Council and former IRGC commander
  • Hassan Rouhani, Strategic Research Center 
  • Baqer Qalibaf, Tehran Mayor
  • Mohammad Qarazi, former Telecommunications Minister
  • Ali Akbar Velayati, former Foreign Minister

UPDATE: This is becoming not a good night for state TV. In the second part of the debate, the moderator asked seven questions with multiple answers, like the standardized tests at schools, and the eight chosen candidates had to answer either yes or no, or choose one of two or three options, like choosing A, B, or C in a test. They could not offer explanations why they picked a particular answer, and could not debate among themselves. At this point, the candidates started to object, some quite angrily, to the format of the debate, saying it was more suitable to testing students than starting a debate among eight people, one of whom will be the country’s president in three weeks. Not surprisingly, most of the answers to questions in this part were, “The Question is Wrong!” This is not going well!

UPDATE 2: The debate finally got into issues, although many candidates still not happy with the format. One of the best reports on tonight’s debate is filed by the Christian Science Monitor’s Scott Peterson.

“In a marathon four-hour debate on the themes of economic “justice,” failing trust in government, and current mismanagement, the mild-mannered men criticized present and past administrations but did not put forward their own concrete plans,” Peterson reports.

To read Scott Peterson’s piece, please click here.

Photo credit: A screen capture of state TV's broadcast of the first presidential debate (IRIB/Press TV)