Russia using Iranian bases for air strikes against Syria
Russian bombers based in Iran on Tuesday struck militant targets inside Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said, after Moscow deployed Russian aircraft to an Iranian air force base to widen its campaign in Syria.The Russians were having to fly over Iran to make the strikes anyway, so this shortens their trip and their turnaround time. While the report indicates the Russians are striking the al Qaeda front group, the reality is that they hit anyone who challenges the Syrian government.
The ministry said the strikes, by Tupolev-22M3 long-range bombers and Sukhoi-34 fighter bombers, were launched from Iran's Hamadan air base.
The move shows Russia is expanding its role and presence in the Middle East and comes amid Russian media reports Moscow has asked Iran and Iraq for permission to fire cruise missiles at Syrian targets across their territory from the Caspian Sea.
The ministry said Tuesday's strikes had targeted Islamic State and militants previously known as the Nusra Front in the Aleppo, Idlib and Deir al Zour provinces.
The bombers had been protected by fighters based at Russia's Hmeymim air base in Syria's Latakia Province, it said.
It said the deployment would allow the Russian air force to cut flight times by 60 percent and increase bombing payloads.
Russian media said the Tupolev-22M3 bombers, which had already conducted many strikes on militants in Syria from their home bases in southern Russia, were too large to be accommodated at Russia's air base inside Syria.