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    Use of Iran's Airbase 'Prevents Moscow From Being Dragged Into Ground Operation'

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    Over the past five years, since the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring, the situation in the Middle East has become even more complicated. Some dramatic changes have happened to the regional balance of power, including Russia’s comeback as one of the key players.

    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (R) shakes hands with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani during a welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey April 16, 2016
    © REUTERS / Yasin Bulbul/Presidential Palace
    For the first time in a long time, Russia deployed a military facility beyond the borders of the former Soviet states. This is the Hmeymim airbase, the centerpiece of the Russian aerial campaign in Syria.

    Meanwhile, now the deployment of Russian military infrastructure in Syria and Iran, at the Hamadan airfield, faces less political obstacles than in 2015. Then Turkey opposed a Russian airbase in Syria.

    After a Turkish jet downed a Russian bomber in Syria, tensions deepened and there was a risk of a military confrontation between Moscow and Ankara. However, the situation was even more complicated. A failed coup attempt in Turkey affected Ankara’s ties both with its NATO allies and Russia. Now, Turkey is not among the countries opposing Russia’s growing influence in the Middle East.

    However, Russia's involvement in Syria has its limits. First of all, Russia will not engage in a ground operation in Syria and Iraq.

    At the same time, Russian airstrikes are an important part of the Syrian Army’s advancements against terrorists. Turning Hmeymim into a permanent Russian military base as well as the use of Iranian airfields would boost the efficiency of Russian aerial support and prevent Moscow from being dragged into a ground operation, an article on the Russian news website Lenta.ru read.

    Earlier this week, the Russian Defense Ministry deployed Tu-22 strategic bombers to the Hamadan airfield in Iran.

    The first combat sorties from the base were conducted on August 16. According to the Defense Ministry, aircraft bombed positions of Daesh and al-Nusra Front terrorists in Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor and Idlib.

    Hamadan, the 3rd tactical airfield of the Iranian Air Force, has a more advanced infrastructure than Hmeymim in Syria. It has two air strips (3.9 and 4.3 km) against one air strip (2.8 km) at Hmeymim. There are also advanced facilities for maintaining military equipment, including ammo storages and large parking places for aircraft.

    The two airstrips facilitate aircraft take-off and landing. They widen the range of weather conditions for the aircraft and guarantee safe take-off for warplanes with full payloads.

    All of the above boost the combat capabilities of the aviation. When Russian Tu-22M bombers flew from an airfield in Russia’s Mozdok they could carry 2.5-6 tons of bombs and attacked 1-2 targets. The distance between the Hamadan base and target areas in Syria is nearly 1,000 km. A Tu-22M bomber can take off with some 20 tons of bombs and destroy several targets.

    The use of the Hamadan airfield is the first time that Iran’s territory has been used by foreign military forces since 1946.

    At the same time, the use of the Iranian airbase does not mean that Russia would abandon Hmeymim. A Russian task force will be permanently stationed at Hmeymim. An agreement on this was submitted for ratification to the Russian parliament.

    Related:

    US to Face Isolation in Mid East if it Doesn’t 'Expand Dialogue With Russia'
    Washington 'Does Not Give Russia, Iran Credit' for Their Anti-Daesh Efforts
    Three Reasons Why Russia Deployed Tu-22M3 Strategic Bombers to Iran
    Why Russian Hmeymim Base Will Be Beneficial Not Only to Syria
    Tags:
    Middle East, military operation, airstrike, Hamadan airbase, Hmeymim airbase, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Russia
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