Iran says Russian raids from its airbase ‘over for now’
A still image, taken from video footage and released by Russia's Defence Ministry August 18, 2016, shows a Russian Sukhoi Su-34 fighter-bomber based at Iran's Hamadan air base, dropping off bombs in the Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor. REUTERS photoIran said Aug. 22 that Russian raids on jihadists in Syria from one of its airbases had ended for now, after accusing Moscow of “showing off” when it revealed the bombing runs.
“It was a specific, authorized mission and it’s over for now. They conducted it and they are gone now,” foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters in Tehran, AFP reported.
He left open the possibility of future Russian combat flights from the Islamic republic, saying it would depend on “the situation in the region, and according to our permission.”
Hours after this statement Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement that further use of the Iranian air base by Russian air forces for strikes in Syria will depend on the situation in Syria, according to Reuters.
The Russian ambassador to Tehran, Levan Dzhagaryan, said Aug. 22 all Russian planes have left Iran’s air base in Hamedan but that nothing prevents them from using it again in the future.
“There are no reasons to worry. If the leaders of our two countries consider it necessary and reach the relevant agreements, what sort of problems can there be?” he told Russia’s Interfax news agency.
“For the time being, there are no [Russians] remaining in Hamedan” airbase, he added.
Ghasemi’s comments came a few hours after Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan made a rare public criticism of Russia for revealing that its warplanes were using Hamedan to attack insurgents in Syria.
“Naturally, the Russians are keen to show that they are a superpower and an influential country and that they are active in security issues in the region and the world,” Dehghan told Iran’s Channel 2 television.
“There has been a kind of showing-off and inconsiderate attitude behind the announcement of this news,” he said.
Iran and Russia are key backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but Tehran has remained relatively guarded about its precise involvement in the conflict.
The Islamic republic is highly sensitive to any suggestion that it would allow foreign militaries to be based in its territory, which is outlawed under its constitution, and has emphasized that Russian planes were only refueling in Iran.
“[Russia] needed to refuel in an area closer to the operation. That’s why they used the Nojeh base [in Hamedan] but we have definitely not given them a military base,” said Dehghan.
The flights from Iranian territory started on Aug. 16.
They were a major shift, significantly shortening flight-times for Russian warplanes, allowing them to carry increased firepower.
Russia said it struck targets linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Jabhat al-Nusra jihadist groups in Aleppo, Deir Ezzor and Idlib.
Kerry says US-Russia talks nearing end
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Aug. 22 that talks between the United States and Russia on military cooperation on fighting ISIL in Syria are nearing the end with technical teams meeting this week to discuss details.
“We are in indeed engaged currently in ongoing conversations, and it is my hope that we are reaching the end of those discussions one way or another,” Kerry told a news conference during a visit to Kenya, according to Reuters.
“In the next days, our team will meet this week, and depending on where those discussions go, it is very possible, very likely, that Foreign Minister [Sergei] Lavrov and I will meet,” he said, without elaborating.