Russia is to supply Iran with a new and lethal anti-aircraft system capable of shooting down American or Israeli fighter jets in the event of any strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
Iran yesterday confirmed that Russia had agreed to deliver the S-300 air defence system, a move that is likely to irk the Bush administration and gives further proof of Russia and Iran's deepening strategic partnership.
The S-300 had a range far superior to that of the US Patriot system, experts said. It could also shoot down cruise and ballistic missiles, they added.
"It's a formidable system. It really gives a new dimension to Iran's anti-aircraft defences," said one Russian defence expert, who declined to be named.
"It's purely a defensive system. But it's very effective. It's much better than the US system. It has good radar. It can shoot down low-flying cruise missiles, though with some difficulty."
The sale follows Russian president Vladimir Putin's visit to Iran in October to attend a meeting of Caspian Sea nations, the first trip by a Russian head of state to Tehran since Stalin attended a 1943 summit with Churchill and Roosevelt.
Putin has made clear his opposition to the US hardline stance on Iran, and has defended Iran's right to pursue a peaceful nuclear programme.
This will make the Cheney's plan for precision air strikes a lot more difficult. Every time I've posted about a possible attack on Iran, I've expressed my hope that the wiser heads would be able to prevent it. Now the Russians have put up a very large roadblock. The top military brass has been opposed to attacking Iran, and will be much more reluctant to attack in the face of upgraded air defense. Maybe, just maybe, the Cheney can be stopped.