Russia on Tuesday announced for the first time it had flown bombing raids against jihadist groups in Syria from an airbase in Iran after deploying its warplanes to the country.
The raids mark a shift in Moscow’s military strategy in war-torn Syria, where its bombing campaign in support of long-time ally Bashar Al-Assad had until now been flown out from bases in Russia and the Russian airbase in Syria.
“On August 16 Tu-22M3 long-range bombers and Su-34 frontline bombers, flying with a full bomb load from the Hamedan air base [Islamic Republic of Iran], conducted a group air strike against targets of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist groups in the provinces of Aleppo, Deir Ezzor and Idlib,” the defence ministry said.
The strikes led to the destruction of “five large warehouses with weapons, ammunition and fuel” and jihadist training camps near Aleppo, Deir Ezzor, the village of Saraqeb in the Idlib region and Al-Bab, an IS-held town in Aleppo province, the ministry said in a statement. Conducting its bombing raids from Iran will dramatically cut the time it takes Moscow’s long-range bombers to reach Syria.
Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, told IRNA state news agency on Tuesday that Moscow and Tehran “exchange capacities and facilities” in the fight against terrorism in Syria.
An unnamed military source told Interfax news agency that the Russian army had sent requests to Iran and Iraq to fire cruise missiles across their airspace.
Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has held several meetings over the past year with Iranian counterpart General Hossein Dehghan, most recently in June in Tehran, where they pledged to deliver a “decisive” battle against “all terrorist groups”.
Mr. Shoigu claimed separately in comments aired on Monday that Russia and the United States are also close to joining forces in some form around Syria’s ravaged second city of Aleppo, where Russian planes and regime troops are battling rebels for control. But in Washington, State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau refused to confirm any collaboration.
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