No Russian Air Base in Iran

Russian aircraft used the Hamedan airfield based on a decision by Iran’s Supreme National Security Council
Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani (C)Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani (C)

Iran has not allowed Russia to establish an air base on its territory, said the parliament speaker who did not deny Moscow has used an Iranian military base to launch airstrikes on targets in Syria.

Article 146 of the Iranian Constitution expressly bans the establishment of a foreign military base on Iran's soil, even for peaceful purposes.

"Iran has not let any country have a base and our cooperation with Russia on regional issues like Syria does not mean that we have given it a military base and we deny any such media claim," ICANA quoted Ali Larijani as telling the Majlis open session on Wednesday.

In a move underscoring Moscow's increasingly close ties with Tehran, long-range Russian Tupolev-22M3 bombers and Sukhoi-34 fighter bombers used Iran's Hamedan air base to strike a range of targets in Syria on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Ali Shamkhani, the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said Tehran and Moscow are now sharing facilities.

"Tehran-Moscow cooperation is strategic and we have been sharing equipment and capabilities," Shamkhani told IRNA in response to reports of airstrikes by Iran-based Russian bombers.

The Iranian deployment allowed the Russian air force to cut flight times and increase bombing payloads, Reuters reported.

Both countries back Syrian President basher al-Assad and their intervention has helped turn the tide in Syria's civil war and is testing US influence in the Middle East.

Relations between Tehran and Moscow have recently grown warmer and President Vladimir Putin visited Tehran in November.

The two countries regularly discuss military plans for Syria.

  US Reaction

The United States said it was still assessing the extent of Russian-Iranian cooperation but described the new development as "unfortunate".

State Department Spokesman Mark Toner said the United States was looking into whether the move violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which prohibits the supply, sale and transfer of combat aircraft to Iran.

"It's unfortunate but not surprising," Toner told reporters.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the move is not a violation of the resolution.

"There is no reason to suspect Russia of violating UNSC Resolution 2231," Sputnik quoted Lavrov as saying.

"In the case we are discussing, there were no supply, sale or transfer of combat jets to Iran. These jets are used by the Russian Aerospace Forces to conduct an anti-terrorist operation in the Syrian Arab Republic at the request of the legitimate Syrian leadership."

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday that Iraq, which lies between Iran and Syria, had granted Russia permission to use its airspace, on the condition the planes use corridors along Iraq's borders and refrain from flying over Iraqi cities.

Abadi told a press conference the same permission has been given to air forces of a separate US-led coalition against the self-styled Islamic State militants by flying to Syria from Kuwait.

"Russia also gave advance notice to the US-led coalition battling IS militants in Syria and Iraq, complying with the terms of a safety agreement meant to avoid an accidental clash in the skies," said US Army Colonel Christopher Garver, a Baghdad-based spokesman for the US-led coalition.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Russian bombers were believed to have returned to Russia.

Later on Wednesday, Chairman of Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi said the Russian aircraft used the Hamedan airfield based on a decision by Iran's Supreme National Security Council within the framework of the four-way anti-terror cooperation among Iran, Russia, Iraq and Syria.