(CNSNews.com) - Iran has installed sophisticated Russian-made surface-to-air missile launchers at a secretive nuclear facility which the Obama administration contends has been rendered harmless under the nuclear deal.
The negotiated agreement allowed the regime to keep the underground uranium enrichment plant at Fordow – a reversal of a stance taken earlier by the U.S. and its negotiating partners – but heavily proscribed what activity may take place there.
“No enrichment will be allowed at the Fordow facility at all,” the White House says in promotional material for the deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which began to be implemented last January.
Whatever the case, Iran clearly wants to safeguard the facility, located in a mountainous area near the Shi’ite holy city of Qom, against the possibility of airstrikes. Officials announced Sunday that they have deployed recently-delivered Russian S300 missiles at Fordow.
Footage showing the truck-mounted launchers and radar system was aired on the state broadcaster IRIB for the first time.
At a meeting Sunday with commanders from a military air defense headquarters, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lashed out at Iran’s enemies – the “hegemonic system” and “global Zionism” – over their criticism over the purchase of the S300 system and over the facility at Fordow.
He said the missile system was for “defensive, not aggressive purposes,” yet the U.S. had made every effort to prevent Iran from acquiring it.
Air defenses commander Gen. Farzad Esmaili told IRIB that protecting nuclear facilities was of paramount importance “in all circumstances.”
The S300 system is designed to protect military bases and infrastructure against attack by enemy aircraft.
Iran had long wanted to deploy it to shield its nuclear infrastructure from the possibility of Israeli or U.S. strikes, and signed a deal with Russia for five S300 systems worth $800 million in 2007.
Because of U.N. sanctions against Iran over its suspect nuclear activities President Vladimir Putin put a hold on the sale until April 2005 when – three months before the JCPOA was finalized – he issued a decree lifting the ban.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at the time the restrictions were no longer necessary due to the “substantial progress in settling Iran’s nuclear problem.”
Fordow’s continued operation under the nuclear deal was a victory for Iran.
The existence of the covertly-built underground facility was first made public by President Obama in 2009, in a somber joint announcement alongside French and British leaders on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Pittsburgh.
Obama, then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy and then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown declared that the size and configuration of the complex was “inconsistent with a peaceful [nuclear] program.”
“The level of deception by the Iranian government, and the scale of what we believe is the breach of international commitments, will shock and anger the whole international community, and it will harden our resolve,” said Brown. “Confronted by the serial deception of many years, the international community has no choice today but to draw a line in the sand.”
Pursuing that “line in the sand” over the following years, the U.S. and its P5+1 partners – Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – insisted that Fordow be shut down, laying it down as a condition in a proposal put to the Iranians in 2012.
In late 2013, Obama said that if the nuclear program was peaceful as the Iranians claimed, “they don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordow.”
In July the following year, a senior administration official during a background briefing described Fordow as being “of particular concern because of the covert way in which it was developed and how deep underground it is.”
But Iran with equal forcefulness insisted that Fordow would not be closed, and as the nuclear negotiations continued, the P5+1 eventually eased away from the demand.
Iran ultimately got to keep the facility, although with heavy restrictions: It is allowed to keep about one-third of the 3,000 centrifuges installed at the plant, but may not use them to enrich uranium for at least 15 years.
It is also not permitted to have any fissile material for at least 15 years at Fordow, and the site is under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring.