Syria Developing: Iran — Russia Can No Longer Use Our Airbase

UPDATE 1245 GMT: The Russian Ambassador to Iran has confirmed that Moscow’s warplanes have left the Hamedan airbase.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: Only a week after Russia announced its use of an airbase in western Iran for operations across northern Syria, Tehran has said that it is terminating the agreement.

Foreign Minister Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi issued the announcement on Monday, amid growing internal criticism:

Qassemi said Russia’s attacks last week — nominally against the Islamic State and the jihadists of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, but also against opposition-held areas — were “with our prior notice and our permission, in the fight against terrorism”.

However, he added that Russia does not have a base in Iran, nor has it deployed warplanes: “That was an issue which took place and has finished for now.”

A Problem with “Strategic Cooperation”

In the last 48 hours, the initial proclamation by Iranian officials of “strategic cooperation” with Moscow has given way to Tehran’s accusations of a betrayal of trust by Moscow.

Russia began operations on August 15 from the Hamedan base in western Iran, with Tu22-33M “Backfire” long-range bombers and Su-34 tactical bombers carrying out missions. However, MPs protested that the Russian use of the base violated the Islamic Republic’s Constitution, which prohibits any foreign military presence in the country.

Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani had to respond, “Iran and Russia enjoy close views on the solution to the crisis of terrorism in the region and [have] close cooperation, but no military base has been granted to Russia or any other country at all.”

This did not stem the objections, with 20 MPs filing a formal complaint. So on Saturday, Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan revised the regime’s public position, saying that the Russian warplanes were not “deployed” at the Hamedan base but merely using it as a “stopover”.

See Iran Daily, August 21: Regime Steps Back on Russian Use of Airbase for Syrian Operations

The Minister soon went farther, as Kasra Naji of the BBC noted:

Russian State media, which hailed the airstrikes as a significant advance in Moscow’s military intervention, have offered no comment on the shift in Iranian position.

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.


  1. No Iranian government official said “Russia Can No Longer Use Our Airbase” — it seems they got somewhat emotional that rather explicit photos were released to so early on while they are still seeking to dress the Russian deployment on the base up as a not-a-deployment but a mere ‘fuel stopover’ which will recur ad lib.
    This frankly nonsensical PR contortion is done for internal consumption, apparently due to some niggle about the Constitution, though Khamenei & Co. are not normally known to be the greatest sticklers for that particular document.
    Russian Ambassador to Iran, Levan Chagarian, confirms: “Russian bombers have left Iran territory but could return any time if more operations needed.”
    As the two governments obviously agree Syrian operations are needed to the tune of dozens per day it’s a safe bet they will soon resume.
    On a side note, Iran’s Defence Minister has the bad habit of talking too much — in another recent faux pas he declared that Putin tried to force him to accept the S-400 air defence system in final fulfilment of the 2007 contract but he refused and thus got the S-300s he’d always wanted! Which, if true, makes the man’s a prize idiot, firstly for turning down the superior system and second for actually boasting of the achievement. However, in reality the S-400 was probably never offered in the first place and he was just gratuitously lying to try to make himself appear amazingly cunning in pulling one over on the Rooskies …

  2. Figure what out? They’re gone already. Sputnik declared that the Russians achieved their goals and returned to base. So it turns out their goals were 1. Visit Iran, and 2. Fly home again.

  3. Remember when Putin said he has achieved his goals in Syria and has pulled out.. Yeah, shouldn’t have believed it back then, and shouldn’t believe this now.. The russians don’t care what the iranians say in public, because they know the iranians are lying to keep some pride inside the country.. The Iranians are Putins toy now. Putin got his own air/military base inside Iran, and this is due to desperation in Syria. 2015 was the year they begged him to come help in Syria in return for Hmeimeim. Obviously that hasn’t done the trick and so now I would guess they begged him for more help and Putin said give me Hamadan for it. The Russians got permission from Obama and Israel for all of this of course and this is very embarrassing to the great Iranian Islamic nation that proclaims “Death to America”

    Its a long war yet, I wonder when will someone show that their is still Russian bombers flying out of Hamadan. How many denials will the Iranians put out before they get bored and own up or before people stop caring.

    • Wow, the regime is really in a state of confusion now over how to handle this one. Spectacular backfire of a PR initiative — and possibly a new Russian approach to bombing everything in northern Syria….


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