18:51 GMT20 September 2020
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    Tehran is willing to grant Russia ad hoc access to its military bases should Moscow need them to carry out its counterterrorism operations, with the Iranian leadership making a discrete decision in each particular case.

    In an opinion piece for RIA Novosti, journalist Alexander Khrolenko pointed out that there have already been several instances of close military cooperation between the two powers.

    "In October 2015, 26 Russian-made Kalibr cruise missiles were launched from the Caspian Sea. They travelled according to a predetermined flight path, traversing Iranian airspace from the north-east to the south-west to hit 11 militant targets in Syria," he said. "In August 2016, the Russian Aerospace Forces used the Hamadan airfield to launch airstrikes on terrorist targets in Syria."

    Both missions were part of Russia's limited military campaign aimed at providing assistance to Damascus in its fight against Daesh and other terrorist groups trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

    The operation was launched on September 30, 2015. In late December 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow decided to withdraw the bulk of its forces from Syria since Damascus and key armed opposition groups reached a ceasefire agreement. Despite positive developments in Syria, Russia and Iran are still taking part in counterterrorism efforts in the war-torn country.

    The Middle East, including the six-year-long Syrian war, were on the agenda of the meeting between President Putin and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, who was in Moscow on a two-day visit earlier this week.

    President Rouhani reiterated that Russia and Iran were determined to fight terrorism until all militant groups in the Middle East are defeated, saying that the ultimate goal of both countries was to "strengthen peace and stability the region."

    Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who traveled to Moscow with Rouhani, told Reuters that although Russia doesn't have a military base in Iran, Tehran is ready to make decisions "on a case-by-case basis when it is necessary for Russians fighting terrorism to use Iranian facilities."

    Not a single country is allowed to establish a military base in Iran since this is prohibited by the country's constitution.

    Hmeymim, located in the Syrian province of Latakia, remains Russia's only permanent military base in the region, Khrolenko noted.

    "And still Iran's military and political stance [is close to that of Russia]. Its military campaign in Syria is legitimate and efficient. In other words, Tehran is Russia's combat-tested ally," he said. "Iran looks like a strong ally, but some perceive [the Islamic Republic] as a tough opponent."

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    counterterrorism, Syrian conflict, Syrian crisis, Russian aerial campaign, military base, Hmeimim air base, military cooperation, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Hassan Rouhani, Vladimir Putin, Syria, Iran, Russia
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