Levan Dzhagaryan, Russia’s ambassador to Iran, has today suddenly floated what looks like the possibility of the Russian air force once again using Shahid Nojed airbase near Hamadan in Iran.
The Russian air force briefly used this air base to launch strikes against ISIS in eastern Syria back in August. Following complaints in the Iranian parliament the Russians abruptly pulled out, either because they chose to go or because the Iranians asked them to.
Dzhagaryan now seems to be raising the possibility of the Russian air force returning there, and even of Russia selling advanced SU27 fighters to Iran. Here is how the official Russian news agency TASS is reporting his comments
If the leadership of the two countries will consider it necessary to use the Iranian military infrastructure to combat terrorism in Syria or elsewhere, such steps will be taken. Last year, Russia finished completely the fulfilment of its obligations for the delivery of S-300 air defense systems to Iran. Cooperation between Russia and Iran proceeds in many fields, including the military-technical sphere. The two countries’ defense ministries are currently in talks at different levels on many projects of interest to Iran. It is common knowledge that the Russian aerobatic demonstration team Russian Knights (flying Sukhoi-27 jets) participated in the Iran Airshow-2016 on Kish island last November. Hossein Dehghan (Iran’s Defence Minister – AM) also visited a static exhibition of Sukhoi-27 fighter jets.
It is difficult to see these comments as anything other than a veiled warning by the Russians to the new Trump administration that Russia will stand by Iran in any renewed confrontation with the US. The talk of the Russian air force returning to Iran to conduct operations from there seems more intended to deter any attacks the US might be considering against Iran rather than to fight ISIS.
There has been some recent discussion of Russia supposedly facing a ‘difficult choice’ in deciding whether to make up with a Trump led US or sticking by its existing friends Iran and China.
The Russians – as they did just days ago – are going out of their way to make it clear that so far as they are concerned that ‘choice’ does not exist. They have no intention of abandoning their ‘strategic partnerships’ with Iran or China, which stood them well in difficult times, simply because some people in the new administration might want them to.