Russia expands Middle East influence

“The Russian Defense Ministry says its warplanes have launched a new wave of airstrikes on Islamic State fighters in Syria. The ministry says its jets took off earlier in the day on Wednesday from a base southwest of the Iranian capital, Tehran, to strike targets in the east of Syria. It says they destroyed two command posts and two training camps. Iran on Tuesday allowed Russian warplanes to take off from its territory to bomb targets in Syria, for the first time since Russia launched its operation in the war-torn Arab nation last year.”

Russia’s bombing runs from an Iranian air base are a first for Moscow — and signal growing cooperation between Iran and Russia. Tuesday was the first time a foreign military operated from Iranian soil since at least World War II, according to The New York Times, which has more on the arrangement here:

“The arrangement, permanent or not, enables Russia to bring more firepower to the Syrian conflict, and far greater military flexibility. Analysts said the new arrangement could also expand Moscow’s political influence in the Middle East and speed the growing convergence of interests between Moscow and Tehran. From the air base, in Hamadan, northwest Iran, the Russian bombers destroyed ammunition dumps and a variety of targets linked to the Islamic State and other groups that had been used to support militants battling in Aleppo, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

“Historians and American officials said on Tuesday that the Iranian decision to let Russia base its planes and support operations in Iran — even temporarily — was a historic one. ‘This didn’t even happen under the shah,’ said John Limbert, a former American foreign service officer stationed in Iran, referring to the reign of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi from 1941 to 1979.”

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