While deliveries of Russian S-300 air- and missile defense systems to Iran are not likely to happen soon, Iran could be getting a more offensive weapon system from Russian ally and neighbor Belarus. The two countries are discussing the delivery of Russian made Iskander-M tactical missile systems to Iran. This is not the first time Iran indirectly obtaining Russian origin offensive weapons – In 2001, Ukraine transferred twelve X-55 nuclear-capable air-launched cruise missiles to Iran. These missiles, also known as Kh-55 Granat (or AS-15 Kent) are capable of hitting targets from a range beyond 3,000 km are designed to carry nuclear weapons.
Compared to the X-55, the single-stage, surface-launched 9M723K1 missile system, capable of hitting targets at ranges of about 500 km (over 300 miles) does not escalate the threat beyond the region since Iran already has several types of weapons that reach beyond this range; however, while improving Iran’s regional attack capabilities, Iskander-M will also boost Iran’s missile engineering capability to a new level. Since the solid-propelled Iskander offers capabilities much superior to Iran’s entire current missile arsenal, it can be assumed that the resourceful Iranian missile experts will carefully study the Russian missile. Iskander represents the next generation over the Scud, which provided the basis for the ‘Shahab’ missile family developed by the Iranians. Undoubtedly, they will implement the knowledge gain to improve the precision and maneuverability of their own missiles.