[ Editor’s note: The use of Iran’s Hamadan airbase by Russian strategic bomber aircraft has been a definite game changer in the war against IS. The move completely wrong footed the US-lead coalition that, while claiming to support the ‘moderate opposition’ (which has never really existed) in reality is the creator and backer of IS.
Sending diplomats to try to gather intelligence is a clear sign that the coalition is concerned that the Russian use of Hamadan will have very great effect on the conflict, perhaps even move it forward to an end game where IS is defeated by a combination of Russian air power and Syrian, Iraqi, Iranian and Lebanese ground forces. This would be a disaster for the coalition and their phony ‘War on Terror’… Ian ]
Russian media outlets claimed that the recent visit by the French and British diplomats to Kermanshah province in Western Iran was aimed at gathering intelligence on the country’s airbase in Hamadan from which the anti-terrorism flights of the Russian fighter jets in Syria have been carried out for the last few days.
“The recent military agreement between Iran and Russia was due to remain secret but the transfer of a high volume of equipment to the base in recent weeks has attracted the attention of everyone in a way that a British and French diplomats risked and went to Hamadan for taking images and gathering intelligence under the pretext of visiting the neighboring Kermanshah province, but they were stopped by the Iranian security forces and returned to their hotels,” the Persian-language section of Sputnik wrote on Saturday.
Sputnik said “when the flight of the Russian fighter jets from Iran imposes shock, we should wait and see other possible shocks that might be underway and Iran’s enemies might not be aware of them”.
“Given the fact that Nojeh airbase is near Iraq’s Mosul city, many observers have raised the possibility that it could also be used as the main airbase to support the anti-ISIL operations in Mosul,” it added.
After the Islamic Revolution in Iran (1979), the Shah army forces used Nojeh as a command center to stage a military coup against the late Ayatollah Khomeini but their plot failed.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense confirmed last Tuesday that it had deployed Tu-22M3 bombers and Su-34 strike fighters in Iran and these have already carried out airstrikes against terrorists in Syria.
“On August 16, 2016, Tu-23M3 long-range bombers and Su-34 bombers, having taken off from their base in Hamadan [Islamic Republic of Iran], carried out group airstrikes against targets belonging to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Jabhat al-Nusra (Fatah al-Sham) terrorist groups in the provinces of Aleppo, Deir Ezzur and Idlib,” the ministry said in a statement.
Strategic long-range Tu-22M3 bombers have already delivered airstrikes in Syria against ISIL from the airfield.
Hours later, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani indirectly confirmed deployment of Tu-22M3 bombers and Su-34 strike fighters in Western Iran to be used for airstrikes against terrorists in Syria.
“Cooperation between Tehran and Moscow to fight against terrorism in Syria is strategic and we exchange our capacities and possibilities in this regard,” Shamkhani said on Tuesday when asked by Iran’s state-run news agency about Russian media reports on the deployment of the country’s fighter jets on the Iranian soil.
“The conditions have grown difficult for the terrorists due to the constructive and extensive cooperation among Iran, Russia, Syria and the resistance front and this trend will continue with new and massive operations until their full annihilation,” he added.
Shamkhani underlined that Tehran, without any expectations, is playing a military advisory role in countries which are fighting against terrorism.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that the ISIL terrorist group’s Aleppo arms depots used to supply ISIL militants near Aleppo were destroyed by Russian planes taking off from an Iranian airbase.
The report was published by Sputnik news agency after al-Masdar News reported Moscow and Tehran signed a military agreement allowing Russian aircraft to station at Hamadan Airport in Western Iran.
The number of military aircraft to be deployed at Hamadan Airbase has not been disclosed yet,.
First photos published by al-Masdar expose at least three Tu-22M3 bombers and Il-76 military transport jet in Iran.
The core benefit for the Russian Air Force is a drastic reduction in flying time to terrorist targets in Syria.
Russian long-range bombers have been delivering airstrikes in Syria from a base in Mozdok, Russia, and had to cover a distance of about 2,000km to get to Syrian airspace. Now that distance is reduced to some 700km, so time-sensitive airstrikes can be delivered immediately and more cheaply.
As for Khmeimim Airbase in Syria’s Lattakia province, used by Russian task force since September 2015 to deliver airstrikes against ISIL, its airstrip is not suitable for the heavy Tu-22M3.
But that is subject to change, as Damascus granted Moscow permission to station a permanent military airbase at Khmeimim, and the Russian Air Force is preparing to thoroughly refurbish and modernize the airfield, so it will be able to accommodate all types of military aircraft in the near future.
Military cooperation between Iran and Russia is developing rapidly.
In January this year, Moscow and Tehran signed military cooperation deal that implies wider collaboration in personnel training and counter-terrorism activities. Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and his Iranian counterpart Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan signed the document during a visit by Russia’s top brass to the Iranian capital.
Earlier, Russian media reported that Moscow has once again requested Iran and Iraq to allow cruise missiles to fly through their respective airspace to deliver strikes on terrorist targets in Syria.
Russia also launched tactical naval drills in the Mediterranean and Caspian Seas. The warships taking part in the exercise are to engage in live artillery and missile fire “under simulated battlefield conditions.” The Mediterranean force includes two fast attack guided missile craft, both armed with Kalibr-NK cruise missile complexes equipped with eight missiles each.
Simultaneously, a group of four attack guided missile craft each armed with 8 Kalibr-NK cruise missiles has been deployed in the southwestern part of the Caspian Sea, also to perform live artillery and missile strikes.
On October 7, 2015, four Russian Navy warships in the Caspian Sea fired a total of 26 missiles at positions in Syria held by ISIL, Shoigu announced. The missiles traveled some 1,500km, changing route several times, and eliminating 11 targets.
On November 20, warships of Russia’s Caspian Fleet launched 18 cruise missiles at seven targets in the Syrian provinces of Raqqa, Idlib and Aleppo. All of the targets were said to have been successfully hit.