A few short months after Iran publicly demonstrated the arrival of Russian S-300 missile systems, overnight Iran's state media reported that Tehran has deployed the Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile defence system around its Fordow underground uranium enrichment facility. Iranian state TV on Sunday aired footage of deployment of the recently delivered missile system to the nuclear site in the central Iran.
"Our main priority is to protect Iran's nuclear facilities under any circumstances," Brigadier General Farzad Esmaili, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' (IRGC) air defense force told state TV cited by Reuters. Esmaili did not say whether the new missile defense system was operational, however the IRGC commander did say that, “Today, Iran's sky is one of the most secure in the Middle East.”
Iran's top authority Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday that the country's military power was for defensive purposes. "The S-300 system is a defence system not an assault one, but the Americans did their utmost to prevent Iran from getting it," Khamenei said in a speech broadcast live on state TV.
In May, Iran announced that it had deployed the S-300 defense systems at its Khatam al-Anbia Air Defense Base. The missile redployment next to the facility which several years ago was the focus on an infamous Stuxnet infestation, which was allegedly masterminded by Israeli and US espionage organizations, is likely to provke an angry condemnation from the west which may see the move as one of provocation and potentially a hint that the Iran plans to quietly pursue its nuclear enrichment program in defiance of last year's landmark nuclear agreement.
Iran and the six major powers reached a landmark nuclear deal in 2015 aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for lifting nuclear-related sanctions imposed on Tehran over its disputed nuclear work. Enrichment of uranium at the Fordow facility, around 100 km (60 miles) south of Tehran, has stopped since the implementation of the nuclear deal in January.
Russia, under pressure from the West, in 2010 canceled a contract to deliver S-300s to Iran. But Russian President Vladimir Putin lifted that self-imposed ban in April 2015, after an interim deal was reached between Iran and the six powers.
In August, Iran said that Russia had delivered main parts of the system to the country, adding that the missile system would be completely delivered by the end of 2016.