LONDON, (Reuters) – Syria has agreed to supply Iran with at least 10 out of 50 air defence systems that Damascus is in the process of buying from Russia, Jane’s Defence Weekly reported in this week’s edition.
Jane’s quoted a source close to the deal as saying that while most of the Pantsyr-S1E systems were earmarked for Syrian Air Defence Command, “the end user for 10 of the systems is Tehran”.
It said Iran would take delivery of them in late 2008. To reward Syria for its middleman role, Tehran would part-finance Syria’s Pantsyrs as well as paying for its own.
Iran is locked in confrontation with the United States over its developing nuclear programme and delivered its latest warning to Washington last week that it would retaliate severely if attacked.
Iran denies U.S. accusations that it is trying to build atomic weapons under cover of a civilian nuclear programme.
Washington emphasises it wants to resolve the standoff through diplomacy but has not ruled out military action to destroy Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.
Jane’s said Syria struck a $730 million deal with Russia earlier this year for some 50 Pantsyr-S1E self-propelled short-range gun and missile air defence systems.
Its source said Moscow had not been officially notified of the reported Syrian arrangement with Tehran, which flowed from a November 2005 strategic accord between the two countries on military and technological cooperation.
Russia, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council with veto power, is a key player in international diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
A Security Council resolution in March urged all states to exercise “vigilance and restraint” in the supply, sale or transfer of weaponry to Iran, including missile systems.