By Hassan Beheshtipour
Member of Scientific Council of Iran and Eurasia Research Center (IRAS)
Image Attribute: Russian Su-24 at Nojeh Air Base, Hamedan, Iran / Source: Payvand.com
Russia's Sputnik news agency reported on Wednesday, August 17, 2016, that a number of Russian bomber jets have been deployed to Iran’s Nojeh Air Base in the western city of Hamedan from where they attack positions of Daesh and al-Nusra Front terrorists in Syria.
The news elicited various reactions in Iran because since the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran 37 years ago, this is the first time that a military base in the country has been put at the disposal of a foreign country to be used against terrorists in another country.
While confirming the news, Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani said, “Cooperation between Tehran and Moscow in fighting against terrorism in Syria is of a strategic nature and we exchange capacities and potentialities in this regard.”
Following the revelation, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, a lawmaker from western Iranian city of Islamabad Gharb, cited Article 146 of the Iranian Constitution during an open speech at the Iranian parliament on the same day, noting that deployment of Russian warplanes to Hamedan air base was a blatant violation of the aforesaid constitutional article, while warning the Majlis speaker and other high-ranking Iranian officials in this regard.
This objection was shared by many analysts since Article 146 of the Iranian Constitution has banned establishment of any form of foreign military bases in the country even for peaceful purposes. However, Majlis speaker, Ali Larijani, said in an address to the parliament: “It must be noted that Iran has made no base available to any country and [the fact] that we are cooperating with Russia over such regional issues as the situation in Syria does not mean that we have given a military base to Russia. Iran cooperates with Russia and this is due to the terrorist crisis created by some destructive regional countries and Americans. Therefore, we think that Russia has reached a correct understanding of the region and their cooperation with Iran for the resolution of terrorist crisis in region has started in the past year.”
Iran’s cooperation with Russia against terrorists in Syria has taken numerous and different forms in the past five years, and in its highest level, it is currently being done through military cooperation inside an Iranian air base. Since Russia uses Iran’s Nojeh Air Base in the city of Hamedan just for refueling and ordinary radar support missions, which are used in aerial operations, its military presence cannot be considered as equal to giving concession to a foreign country to set up a military base in Iran. This is true because the command of the Nojeh Air Base is in the hands of Iranian commanders and Russian military forces simply use services provided to them by this base.
In addition, conducting joint operations against terrorists in Syria in the form of a joint military operation is indicative of the promotion of the level of cooperation between the two countries. Perhaps, this is why rival countries in Syria have been observing this new development with concern.
Continuation of such bilateral cooperation between Tehran and Moscow is clearly against a trend according to which some sources claimed in past few days that Russia had reached an agreement with the United States over a joint plan in Syria. They also claimed that Iran was opposed to the plan because the plan ignored the demand of the Syrian people. However, involvement of Russian warplanes in the battle for the Syrian city of Aleppo and taking advantage of Iran’s Nojeh Air Base in Hamedan prove that Russia is still trying in cooperation with its allies to prevent existing equations in the political and military arenas of Syria from being changed in favor of the United States and its allies.
The important question that is raised here is to what extent this new cooperation between Iran and Russia would affect the future outlook in Syria? This is especially important when one takes into account those evidences which show that Turkey is trying to change its past policies on Syria and join the common effort launched by Iran and Russia.
In response to this important question, one could say that, firstly, Turkey is trying to get closer to Russia and Iran in a tactical manner in order to mount pressure on the United States, so that, Washington would be forced to accept Ankara’s request for repatriation of Fethullah Gulen, the Turkish dissident who is currently living in Pennsylvania. Therefore, Turkey’s approach to get close to positions of Iran and Russia on Syria should not be considered as a strategic measure.
Secondly, the reality, which must be taken into account, is that the war against terrorists in Syria is not simply a military war, but attention should be also paid to other cultural, economic and social grounds, which have strengthened Daesh terrorists in Syria and Iraq. Therefore, although military strikes by Russia from Iran or any other place against terrorists can be effective and a containing factor, they are not a radical solution to the ongoing crisis in Syria.
In order to uproot Daesh and all Takfiri terrorist groups, it is necessary to first identify available grounds in Syria and Iraq and then make an all-out effort to cut support for terrorist groups from countries which are backing them. Those who provide Daesh with virtual space on the internet and those who are middlemen for selling oil for Daesh and, finally, all those who provide Daesh terrorists with arms and ammunition must be held accountable in this regard.
In the meantime, the negative propaganda launched by Western media in order to display the military cooperation between Russia and Iran as a sign of Iran’s dependence on Russia and instigate the public opinion inside the country against this cooperation, has been largely thwarted in practice. Of course, it was necessary to take media measures beforehand in order to explain this military cooperation between Tehran and Moscow, but remarks made by Iranian officials to explain Russia's measure in Hamedan air base and citing a decision by Iran’s Supreme National Security Council totally did away with all doubts in this regard.
A more important point is that Americans tried to prove that Russia's measure was against Paragraph 5, Annex B of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, while in practice, there is no relationship between this cooperation and the aforesaid Security Council resolution on Iran. This is true because in its fight against terrorism, Iran has not received military articles from Russia and Russia merely takes advantage of logistic services provided at Nojeh Air Base. Meanwhile, the aforesaid Security Council resolution has banned delivery of military equipment to Iran in any form for five years, but taking advantage of aerial logistic services has not been banned by the resolution.
Map Attribute: Another Day in The Empire
By starting cooperation in Hamedan’s Nojeh Air Base, Iran and Russia have taken an important step to promote their collaboration to strategic level, though the two countries have not been able to increase volume of their economic exchanges to more than USD two billion a year. However, the experience of aerial war in Syria and its full coordination with operations carried out by the Syrian army and resistance forces is indicative of the reality that the war in Syria has entered a new phase. If Turkey has been really convinced to review its past policies, in that case, it can be assumed that a new stage of cooperation among Iran, Turkey and Russia would come into being with regard to Syria even in a tactical form. Now, we must wait and see what tactic would be chosen by the opposite side, that is, the United States and its allies to deal with this issue.
Through cooperation in Syria, Iran and Russia have convinced the Western side that Syria is not Libya and they must change their mind about unseating President Bashar Assad. At present, military cooperation between Iran and Russia at the highest possible level following the victory of the Islamic Revolution will send the message to the entire world that the time when big powers made final decisions on the fate of other governments is long over.