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Ousting the Russian Pilots from Iran? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Tehran gave the two Russian pilots working for its commercial airline two months to pack up and leave Iran. Of course the ousting of the two Russian pilots from Iran is an indication of a decline in relations between the two countries, especially after Tehran expressed its frustration that Moscow failed to deliver the missile defense system that would protect its nuclear plants from any possible military attacks. It is also a sign of tension in Tehran over Moscow’s position towards possible international sanctions against it…but of course there is more to the story.

Yesterday, Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Wahidi stated that his country has begun producing a new short-range cruise missile that is able to “eliminate targets of up to 3000 tons.” This comes as part of a series of Iranian statements that all indicate that Tehran has begun to invade space, let alone produce ships and submarines. If Iran really is able to do all of that then the question here is why then does it want the Russian missile defense system? In fact how can Iran be advanced to such a degree when the pilots who operate its commercial planes are Russian, especially as one cannot compare Iranian aviation to, for example, Qatari aviation bearing in mind the difference in size between the two countries and not to mention the fact that the Iranian commercial aircrafts, which are Russian-made, are dropping like flies?

The other issue is what if Moscow, for example, responded to Tehran ousting its pilots by no longer cooperating with Iran, whether [that cooperation is through] providing it with commercial planes or anything else related to it, not to mention that the Iranian Bushehr reactor is considered to be completely in Russia’s hands. So what would Iran do then?

What we want to say here is that we are facing political and administrative recklessness by Tehran that resembles what happened in our region in the 1960s; the Iranian regime is talking as if it is on par with the [highly] industrialized states as Tehran is talking about land, sea and air and even space whilst it is struggling to run a commercial airline and we find that the Iranian leadership is pushing the whole country to confront the world in its entirety.

Around three years ago, whilst on a visit to Moscow, I spoke to a Russian official about Iran during an official dinner party. The Russian official said to me, “Would you be surprised if the Iranian regime collapsed internally for domestic reasons?” My answer was that there are no signs of that happening and he answered, “Watch carefully, you might be surprised just as the world was surprised when the former Soviet Union fell.” I still think about his question carefully, especially after the last presidential election in Iran.

Therefore, just as the ousting of the two Russian pilots from Tehran is considered a sign of a diplomatic crisis between Iran and Russia, it must also be perceived as an indication of the magnitude of the Iranian crisis whether political or economic, and even on the level of credibility. If a military battle is waged, the entire world might be surprised to find that the Iranian power – on which announcements are made everyday – is similar to the famous photoshopped missiles. We say this based on a history of lies that our region has witnessed and is still witnessing today.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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