Wow, this story keeps getting bigger and more interesting.
A few days ago I translated portions of an Israeli news story about the Arctic Sea affair which, along with a Time Magazine report surmised that Israeli intelligence had intercepted or been involved in the interception of the Arctic Sea, while it was carrying Russian missiles destined for either Iran or Hezbollah. Several readers here whose opinions I trust dismissed these theories as improbable for various reasons. But it appears they are quite likely to be wrong and the original story is likely to be correct.
For the background on the original strange, mysterious story about the Arctic Sea, you can read the post linked above. What has happened since is that Russian and Israeli sources have contended that the Arctic Sea was carrying not just any Russian missile, but the nation’s most sophisticated S-300 system, which could protect Iran’s nuclear facilities from Israeli attack:
News reports over the weekend, citing military sources in Israel and Russia, said the Arctic Sea had been loaded with S-300 missiles at the Kaliningrad naval port without the Kremlin’s knowledge.
I repeat a question I asked in my earlier post: how could the Russian government NOT have known a cargo of its most precious military technology was being loaded in its own naval port? I’d surmise that elements of the Russian military and shady arms dealers must’ve been in cahoots to bring this kind of complex caper off:
Earlier this month, Mikhail Voitenko, a Russian journalist who specializes in maritime reporting, fled abroad after he said he received threats for his reporting that [the] ship was likely being used by corrupt officials to carry weapons. Mr. Voitenko broke the story of the ships initial “disappearance” from the Baltic Sea.
Adding flesh to the story is a BBC report that Israeli intelligence confirms its involvement in the Arctic Sea adventure:
Israel was linked to the interception of the missing cargo ship Arctic Sea last month, a senior figure close to Israeli intelligence has told the BBC. The source said Israel had told Moscow it knew the ship was secretly carrying a Russian air defence system for Iran…
The Israeli source told the BBC that the piracy story was a cover and that Israel told Moscow it was giving officials time to stop the shipment before making the matter public…
In my last report, I mentioned the coincidence that Israeli Pres. Shimon Peres made a hastily scheduled trip to Moscow the day after the ship was freed. That was when Peres made the rather astonishing statement that an Iranian bomb was like a “flying death camp.” When I first wrote about this I could only speculate about what he went to talk to the Russians. But now it becomes clearer as the S-300 is the single most feared weapons system that the Russians could provide the Iranians. Israel has made loud and clear in every way possible that they do not want Russia to sell it to Iran. The fact that country almost managed to secure the system surreptitiously would’ve provided Peres quite a bit to talk about. And if indeed the Russian leadership did not know what was happening in Kaliningrad, then it might’ve been eager to explain to the Israelis how this little caper got as far along as it did. Another little matter that would’ve interested the Russians is how the Mossad knew about this shipment while the Kremlin was asleep at the switch.
Further, Yediot Achronot broke the story of a “secret” trip by Bibi Netanyahu to Moscow on Monday. My good friend Sol Salbe just wrote me an e mail saying he thinks it would be likely that the S-300 would’ve been a major issue for discussion. He may be right. If Israel does attack Iran (which it clearly wants to do), it doesn’t want to lose half its pilots doing so. With this technology, Iran would not only harden its targets it would inflict serious damage on the IAF. I would contend that if Israel does not seriously contemplate attacking Iran then these missiles should not be as big a matter for Israel as they appear to be.
One of the more humorous aspects of this story is the Russian foreign minister’s imploring the world media to keep their powder dry and not jump to any conclusions:
“All will become transparent, and I hope that everyone will be convinced that the rumors you refer to are absolutely groundless,” Mr. Lavrov told reporters.
Given the Russian aspiration toward the ideal of full transparency and democracy, I’d say the chances of anyone trusting Lavrov’s promise are about slim to none.