Russian jets target IS in Syria from Iran airport

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Moscow—Russian warplanes took off on Tuesday from a base in Iran to target Daesh fighters and other militants in Syria, Russia’s Defense Ministry said, widening Moscow’s bombing campaign in Syria in a major development in the country’s civil war.
The long-range bombers took off from near the Iranian city of Hamedan, around 280 kilometers southwest of the Iranian capital, and struck targets in three provinces in northern and eastern Syria.
Meanwhile, Syrian opposition activists said a wave of airstrikes on rebel-held parts of the northern city of Aleppo killed at least 15 civilians and wounded many others on Tuesday, but it was not clear whether the strikes were carried out by the Russian or Syrian government’s air force.
It is virtually unheard of in Iran’s recent history to allow a foreign power to use one of its bases to stage attacks. Russia has also never used the territory of another country in the Middle East for its operations inside Syria, where it has been carrying out an aerial campaign in support of President Bashar Assad’s government for nearly a year.
The announcement suggests cooperation on the highest levels between Moscow and Tehran, both key allies of the embattled president.
In Tehran, the state-run IRNA news agency quoted Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, as saying that Tehran and Moscow have exchanged “capacity and possibilities” in the fight against the Daesh group.
“With constructive and extended cooperation between Iran, Russia and Syria and the resistance front (Hezbollah), the situation has become very tough for terrorists and the trend will continue until the complete destruction of them,” Shamkhani said.
Russia and Iran have been expanding their ties in the past months after most of the sanctions against Iran were lifted following the nuclear deal with world powers that put restricted Iran’s nuclear program from weapons-grade capability.
The Russian Defense Ministry released a video showing a Russian Tu-22M3 long-range bomber dropping bombs in strikes described as “terrorist objects in Syria.”
The nearest air base to Hamedan is Shahid Nojeh Air Base, some 50 kilometers north of the city. The base has seen Russian aircraft land there before. A report in December by the American Enterprise Institute, based off satellite imagery, suggested the air base saw a Russian Su-34 “Fullback” strike fighter land there in late November. It said a Russian Il-76 “Candid” transport plane also landed there around the same time before both took off, suggesting the Su-34 may have suffered a mechanical issue.
The report described the air base as “quite large with a 15,000-foot (4,572-meter) runway, extensive taxiways and multiple hangars and bunkers — all seemingly in good repair.” It said it is “ideal for providing covert ground support to Russian combat missions.”— AP

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