Images of Russian jets bombing Syria have become commonplace since Russia decided to enter the war in support of the Assad regime last September. But now Russian jets are coming from a base in Iran. This is a first for Russia and for Iran which had not authorized the use of its bases by an outside force since 1979.
Tactical and political
Though undoubtedly a tactical and logistical advantage for Russia, with shortened flight times and increased bomb payloads, the two powers’ main interests are clearly political.
In recent days, the two nations have stepped up meetings and declarations. These historic allies of Damascus, who wish to keep Assad in power, now represent a powerful front and their support for the Syrian regime is unequivocal.
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, Head of Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy commission said:
“Because Syrian people stand on the first line of resistance, we stand by Syria’s side. We came here to announce our support for Syria.”
Iran emerges from the shadows
In standing shoulder to shoulder with Russia, Iran is emerging further out of the shadows and onto the international stage.
For Russia, a powerful comeback in the geopolitical focal point of the Middle East is at stake.
Stopping radical Sunni Islam is essential for Moscow. Predominantly Shiite Iran, seemingly wont threaten Russia’s interests in the former republics of the Caucasus with their Sunni Islamic populations.
Moscow has everything to gain from a strong axis formed with Ankara and Tehran. Their sights are certainly set on counterbalancing US influence in the region.
Andrew Tabler, an Analyst from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy explained:
“This marks the first time that Russia has based out of Iran and marks an escalation in terms of the fight in Syria – not necessarily militarily, but in terms of the Russian alignment with Iran in places like Syria. And we can see very clearly that the Russians are playing a very strong political cards in places like Syria, while the United States is, at best, playing defence.”
With this backdrop, the tension between Moscow and Ankara could not have lasted. Reconciliation is therefore underway. Iran welcomed this tripartite axis, despite its historical enmity for Ankara. Unprecedented alliances are emerging to ward off Western influence in the region.
Relations with the West
Dr. Huseyin Bagci, professor, Department of International Relations, Middle East Technical University pointed out:
“There is a mistrust, I would say, from Turkish side to Americans, to NATO and to Europeans altogether and showing more trust to Putin. It is something new in our relations.”
The US will see this tripartite alliance as a significant threat to its dominance in the region. Though Moscow has said that it is close to a deal with Washington on closer cooperation between with them in Syria.