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Opinion: The Shock of the Russian Base in Iran - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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By granting the Russians their first military airbase in Iran, the Iranians have cut the distance that Russian bombers have to fly by approximately 1000 kilometres. However, the political meaning of the development in relations between the two countries is more important and it can be described as a historic event.

A thousand kilometres is not an enormous distance, and the base will not affect the capabilities of Russian troops and raise their efficiency very much, unlike the Americans when they use their bases in Qatar and Turkey to carry out their operations in Iraq and Syria and reduce the distance travelled by around 6000 kilometres by doing so.

The surprise and shock felt in western and Arab capitals after the Russians announced the first Russian military base on Iranian soil exposes an underestimation of the nature of the relationship between Tehran and Moscow, it depth and future intentions.

The US government has underestimated the danger of Iranian meddling in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain for the last five years and did not care about increasing Russian support for Tehran. Worst of all, it believed the myth that the Ayatollah regime in Tehran has changed and that Iran is ready to become a peaceful and civil country that is a friend of the west. It therefore signed treaties with Tehran that mostly serve its interests and strengthen its economic and military alliance with the Kremlin.

Are we supposed to get angry about the establishment of the first Russian military base in Iran? In my opinion, it is useless to do so. Russian-Iranian cooperation has been going on for a long time, and 12 million people have been displaced in Syria as a result of it. This is a horrendous number that speaks for itself and its repercussions on security in the Middle East, Europe and the world will also speak for themselves. The Russian-Iranian alliance has existed for a decade and a half and can be seen in the construction of nuclear reactors, military contracts and bartering during the period when international sanctions were imposed on Iran.

Constructing a Russian base in Iran and the military alliance between the two countries in wars takes the region back to the time of the Cold War and its divisions. Despite what this means in terms of increasing tensions and militarisation in the region, it may convince the west to review its calculations about Iran and the region’s crises. A number of American politicians have warned that the US administration’s confidence in the Iranian regime and the lifting of economic restrictions were hasty steps based on misplaced good faith.

Gulf states and Israel warned the US administration against believing the promises of Iranian leaders to open up and end their revolutionary mentality. Nothing has really changed in Iran in order for us to believe that there has been a change in intentions and policy; the Supreme Leader is the same and so is the supreme political leadership except that there has been a change in faces. Military leaders in the army, the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij are the same, and so are the menacing Friday sermons. What has changed is that Iran has increased its military adventures abroad and its military expenditure.

Despite the anger caused by the increase in Russian-Iranian cooperation to the point where they have formed an alliance, I see at least one positive thing coming out from this. It exposes the size and depth of the relationship between Qom and the Kremlin. Our comrades in Washington cannot accuse us of paranoia, hostility and refusing to cooperate. The wars in Syria and Yemen and the confrontations in Iraq are all Iranian battles that aim to change the map of the region, and the Russian air force is supporting the Revolutionary Guards’ ground forces.

The new Russian alliance is an extension of the previous relationship and the Russians feel that they are using the Iranians to expand their influence and besiege areas that are traditionally allied to the west. As for the goals of the game and it conclusion, they may be far bigger than what we see today.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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