President Barack Obama said Tuesday that the U.S. could “penetrate” any air defense system Iran has, including the new S-300 missile system that the Middle Eastern nation is purchasing from Russia, should a military option be needed to destroy Tehran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.
Obama made the comment on MSNBC’s “Hardball” while discussing Iran’s access to the sophisticated Russian-made S-300 missile system, which some U.S. officials fear could jeopardize an expected final settlement between Tehran and six nations, including Russia, over a proposed nuclear deal, by the end of June.
“Our defense budget is somewhere just a little under $600 billion. Theirs is a little over $17 billion,” Obama told MSNBC. “Even if they’ve got some air defense systems, if we had to, we could penetrate them.”
In 2007, Russia had signed an $800 million contract with Iran for the delivery of the S-300 missile system. However, the delivery was suspended three years later after strong protests from the U.S. and Israel.
“My goal is not to resolve conflict and tensions in the region through more war, my goal is to make sure that we are able to negotiate a deal that we can verify that ensures that Israel is safe, that ensures that neighbors like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries are safe, and that there’s not a nuclear-arms race in the region,” the Washington Times quoted Obama as saying on the show.
In addition, the U.S. president issued a warning to Iran against providing weapons to Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen. Obama also said that the U.S. is sending an aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, to waters off Yemen to counter potential arms shipments from Iran to the Houthis. In recent months, rebels suspected to be backed by Iran have managed to take over the country's capital Sanaa, forcing President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, leader of the country's internationally recognized government, to flee to Saudi Arabia.
“What we've said to them is that, ‘If there are weapons delivered to factions within Yemen that could threaten navigation, that's a problem,’” Obama said. “And we're not sending them obscure messages. We send them very direct messages about it.”