Russian bombers carried out airstrikes against ISIS in Syria from an airbase in Iran on Tuesday, the Russian Defence Ministry said, marking a new development in the co-operation between the two countries that are the main supporters of head of Syrian regime Bashar al-Assad.
The ministry said the airstrikes by Tupolev-22M3 long-range bombers and Sukhoi-34 fighter bombers took off from Iran’s air base in Hamadan, located in north-west Iran, to target ISIS and allied Nusra Front militants in the Aleppo, Deir el-Zor and Idlib.
A statement by Russia’s Defence Ministry said three command posts, five major ammunition depots and training camps had been destroyed. It also said that the air raids hit “numerous militants”.
It is believed to be the first time Russian warplanes have been deployed in Iran to strike targets inside Syria since it launched a bombing campaign to support al-Assad’s regime in September 2015.
The new development marks Russia’s expanding role and presence in the Middle East.
Al-Masdar, a news website covering the Arab world, published numerous photos of Russian warplanes in the Hamadan airbase. They said that launching bombers from the Iranian airbase would cut flight time to targets in Syria by 60 percent and increase bombing payloads.
“The distance of these flights [from the Russian airbase] equal roughly 2,150km to reach a target near Palmyra. In comparison, the Hamadan airbase in Iran is roughly 900km from Palmyra,” said al-Masdar.
It also stated that Russia’s Khmeimim airbase in Syria’s Latakia province could not accommodate large bombers such as the Tupolev-22M3.
Ali Shamkhani, the chief of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said on Tuesday: “Tehran and Moscow have strategic cooperation in the fight against terrorism in Syria and we have the capacity and the capabilities for this collaboration.”
Tuesday’s announcement regarding the airstrikes came a day after Russia’s Minister of Defence, Sergei Shoigu, said Washington and Moscow were nearing an agreement on Syria would “allow us to find common ground and start fighting together for bringing peace to that territory,” according to The Associated Press.
Shoigu also said Russian officials are “in a very active stage of talks with our American colleagues.”
Russia and the USA have been in talks regarding greater collaboration for striking militants in Syria. However, they have yet to reach an agreement concerning the specific militant groups the countries should target.