Certainly Iran would have preferred to maintain the policy of caution and was not satisfied with Russia’s announcement on using a military base on its territories. This step was supposed to stay discrete, but the Russian ministries of defense and foreign affairs surprised the Islamic Republic; Tehran has no time to waste in defending its position and has had to protect its ally Bashar al-Assad given that Russia’s air force is important to protect the regime in Syria.
Therefore, Moscow will continue to use the Iranian base only after finding a good way to avoid embarrassing the Syrian “self-sufficient revolution” and soothing the parliament and the people.
Because of Bashar Assad, Syria has been stuck between caught in the crossfire of two countries; one that has lived the obsession of recalling its past and another that lacks credibility; Russia feels that it’s time to fulfill its old ambitions despite its economic and financial crisis.
Following the decision of using the Iranian military base, a source in the defense ministry revealed that the only aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov” has been under maintenance and that it will be ready for long-term operation on the Syrian coast by the end of September. In an attempt to expand its power in the Middle East, Moscow also called on Ankara to provide it with a gateway in İncirlik base. The NATO base hosts around 50 nuclear warheads.
Igor Morozov, member of the Russian upper house of parliament, said that the İncirlik will be the second base used by his country, which points to another achievement for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Another Russian official said that Russia may not need this base, but this decision will reveal Turkey’s intentions concerning the coordination with Moscow to combat terrorism.
As for Iran, and while it is seeking along with Russia to reduce regional ambitions, political observers expect a bigger Russian determination. A Russian source says that Russian air raids may expand to include Iraq; Russia aims at controlling the whole region and to kick the United States out of it. On Monday, a spokesman from the Iranian Foreign Ministry announced that Russia had stopped using its territories.
During a press conference on Saturday, Minister of Defense Hussein Dahkan announced that his country is ready to provide Russia with another airbase and has defended Moscow’s use for Hamadan airbase considering that it corresponds with the international procedures of traditional wars. Dahkan has sought to appease the Iranian opposition by announcing that Tehran has received the full S-300 missiles deal.
The Iranian airbase plays an important role for Russia, because more strikes will lead to the seizure of more territories; an Iranian official said that the Russian-Iranian understanding has determined Syria as a core target; however, it goes far beyond to a strategic agreement that confronts countries that support terrorism and work on toppling Assad.
Although the Russian use of the Iranian airbase ensures many strategic benefits in the battle field, observers didn’t pay much attention to these details; they considered that the main reason behind this use was linked to the timing and the relapse of Assad following the advance of rebels in the Aleppo battle, which required a prompt intervention. Observers also saw that it may be a response to complaints of Hezbollah and the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution about weak Russian air coverage. However, observers expect improvement of relations between Tehran and Moscow, particularly in their coordination to save Assad’s regime.
The agreement between Russia and Iran can’t be considered as an alliance; however both countries are using their cooperation to send a message to the United States, the West, and the Arabian Gulf to emphasize their influence in the region and stress their main role in establishing the new regional regime.
This cooperation is ongoing, which means that both countries don’t intend to lessen their support for Assad, and that they are ready to enhance their military cooperation with new means when needed.
The war in Syria reached a critical phase; Iran’s permission for Russia to use its territories indicates that they are seeking more strategic achievements. However, the battle of Aleppo will not be decisive; yet it will blow the internal conflict in Iran between Ali Shamkhani and Qasem Soleimani, which was sparked by President Hassan Rouhani, who has backed Shamkhani.