PHOTO: Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani — “The Russian fighter jets’ flights from Hamadan airbase have not stopped”
The fallout over Russia’s use of an Iranian airbase for strikes across northern Syria continued on Tuesday, as Iran’s Supreme Leader chastised the Defense Minister for being too vocal in criticism of Moscow.
On Sunday the Defense Minister, Hossein Dehghan, accused Russia of a “betrayal of trust” in its high-profile announcement, five days earlier, that Tu22-33M long-range bombers and Su-34 tactical bombers had begun operations from the Hamedan base in western Iran. Dehghan stoked the dispute further with a firm declaration that Moscow had been “ungentlemanly”, a jab which is particularly sharp in Persian.
The next day, the Iranian Foreign Ministry appeared to confirm that the Russian presence in Hamedan had been terminated, saying operations were “finished for now”.
However, on Tuesday an intervention by Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani both appeared to pull back the announcement and to chide Dehghan.
Larijani said, “The Russian fighter jets’ flights from Hamadan airbase have not stopped and we and Russia are united in fighting against terrorism and this unity benefits the regional Muslims.” At the same time, he assured legislators — some of which have claimed that the Russian operations violate the Islamic Republic’s Constitution — that Iran has not given control of the base to Moscow and said that the bombers were not stationed at the base: “The Russian fighter jets’ flights to Hamedan airbase have been aimed at refueling.”
The Speaker then turned to a remark by Dehghan on Sunday that Parliament has “nothing to do” with the issue of Russia’s use of the base. Larijani said, “The defense minister must be reminded to speak appropriately to Parliament and should have observed the ethics of governance.”
Observers inside Iran have told EA that Larijani’s intervention would have been instigated by the Supreme Leader’s office, which is concerned about the damage to Iranian-Russian cooperation over the Syrian intervention.
The initiative had an immediate effect: Dehghan apologized to Larijani in an open letter on Tuesday and effectively withdrew his earlier statement. He wrote that he regretted the “misunderstanding” of his comments: “Nothing I said in any way weakens the honor or position of Parliament or its representatives.”