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State: US concerned about missile defense system at Iranian uranium facility

State: US concerned about missile defense system at Iranian uranium facility
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The State Department said Monday it is concerned about Iranian state media reports that the country has deployed an advanced missile defense system around its Fordow underground uranium facility.  

The S-300 surface-to-air missile system was sold to Iran by Russia over U.S. objections, after an international accord was reached last July that lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits to its nuclear program. 

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"We've seen the reports of this deployment. Obviously, that's of concern to us because we have long objected to the sale of Iran — of these kinds of capabilities. So as we get more information, obviously, we're going to stay in close consultation with partners going forward," said State Department press secretary John Kirby said at a briefing. 

Kirby said Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryCO2 tax support is based in myth: Taxing essential energy harms more than it helps Kerry says he's 'hopeful, not confident' that China will cooperate on emissions Overnight Energy: EPA pledges new focus on environmental justice | Republicans probe EPA firing of Trump-appointed science advisers | Biden administration asks court to toss kids' climate lawsuit MORE did not raise the issue during talks with Russia's foreign minister last week, but said "it is an issue that the secretary has been very clear ... about in the past on numerous occasions." 

Russia had canceled a contract to deliver the systems to Iran in 2010, under pressure from the West, but announced it was reviving the contract in April 2015, as reaching a final nuclear deal appeared imminent. 

On Sunday, Iranian state TV reported that the S-300 was deployed at the Fordow facility, about 60 miles south of Tehran, according to Reuters. Since the signing of the deal in January, Iran has stopped enriching uranium there.  

But U.S. officials and allies are concerned that the deployment of the S-300, which intercepts missiles, would limit potential future military options. 

Last August, the Pentagon expressed objections to the sale, but said it was "confident" the president would "have all the options he needs" to counteract the system.  

In October, former Marine Corps commandant retired Gen. James Conway warned the S-300's deployment "would be a game changer in the region." 

Iranian officials characterized the deployment of the system as defensive. 

"Our main priority is to protect Iran's nuclear facilities under any circumstances," said Brig. Gen. Farzad Esmaili, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' air defense force. "Today, Iran's sky is one of the most secure in the Middle East." 

"The S-300 system is a defense system, not an assault one, but the Americans did their utmost to prevent Iran from getting it," Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said. 

Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonMcConnell, GOP slam Biden's executive order on SCOTUS Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists POW/MIA flag moved back atop White House MORE (R-Ark.), member of the Senate Armed Service Committee, on Monday blasted the administration's Iran policy, saying it emboldened the "ayatollahs in Tehran" and led to the deal going through. 

"Had the Obama Administration not rushed to dismantle the international sanctions restraining Iran’s belligerence in the Middle East in pursuit of a legacy, Iran would not have been able to acquire and deploy such destabilizing weapons," he said.  

He also argued that the deployment of the S-300 at Fordow was a "clear indication of Iran's intent" to preserve its ability to build a nuclear weapon even as it says it is complying with the deal. 

"The fruits of President Obama’s irresponsible policies will only limit the international community’s options to respond to Iranian nuclear violations," he said.