TEL AVIV, July 23 (Reuters) – Iran is set to receive an advanced Russian-made anti-aircraft system by year-end that could help fend off any preemptive strikes against its nuclear facilities, senior Israeli defence sources said on Wednesday.
First delivery of the S-300 missile batteries was expected as soon as early September, one source said, though it could take six to 12 months for them to be deployed and operable — a possible reprieve for Israeli and American military planners.
Iran, which already has TOR-M1 surface-to-air missiles from Russia, announced last December that an unspecified number of S-300s were on order. But Moscow denied there was any such deal. […]
“Based on what I know, it’s highly unlikely that those air defence missiles would be in Iranian hands any time soon,” U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates said in a July 9 briefing when asked about the S-300 — also known in the West as the SA-20.
An Israeli defence official said Iran’s contract with Russia required that the S-300s be delivered by the end of 2008. A second source said first units would arrive in early September.
The official agreed with the assessments of independent experts that the S-300 would compound the challenges that Iran — whose nuclear sites are numerous, distant, and fortified — would already pose for any future air strike campaign by Israel….