By Arash Karami, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.
Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, spoke to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) Aug. 16 about the security and military developments in the region and Iran’s growing relationship with Russia.
“Cooperation between Tehran and Moscow to fight terrorism in Syria is strategic, and in this field we exchange capacities and resources,” said Shamkhani. While Shamkhani did not address this, Russian officials confirmed Aug. 16 that Russia used an air base in Iran to launch airstrikes against Syrian militants Aug. 16.
The use of the Hamedan air base by Russian long-range Tupolev-22M3 bombers and Sukhoi Su-34 fighter bombers marks both the first time that Russia has used another country other than Syria to launch airstrikes against the Syrian opposition and reportedly the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that Iran has allowed a foreign power to use its territory for military operations.
According to Russian media reports, the air base in western Iran was used to launch strikes against the Islamic State and al-Qaeda targets in Aleppo, Idlib and Deir ez-Zor.
In the interview with IRNA, Shamkhani suggested that cooperation, such as the use of the air base, is a sign of further cooperation rather than an exceptional situation. “With constructive and widespread cooperation between Russia, Iran, Syria and the resistance front [Hezbollah], the situation for terrorists has become very difficult, and with new operations, this process will continue until their complete destruction,” said Shamkhani.
On the name change of the al-Qaeda branch Jabhat al-Nusra to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, Shamkhani said, “Cease-fires with groups that do not have a clear identity or continuously change their names in order to escape the terrorist list and who are not bound to any pacts is meaningless.”
The use of the air base has caught many people on social media by surprise, and Iranian media has, as of Aug. 16, not offered much commentary on the unprecedented moment. In November 2015, when Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, there were signs that the two countries would expand their military and economic ties. Khamenei’s foreign policy adviser, Ali Akbar Velayati, called that meeting the most important meeting of the last 37 years and a “turning point.”
Shamkhani also met Aug. 16 with Faleh Fayaz, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s national security adviser. He stressed the importance of speeding up the creation of a joint committee to implement border pacts in order to facilitate trade between Iraq and Iran. He also said that Iran would continue to offer the governments of Iraq and Syria advisory help until the “complete elimination of terrorist threats.”
Iran also announced Aug. 16 that it had arrested a dual citizen on spying charges for British intelligence. Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said that the individual arrested was “active in the economic field.” Tasnim News Agency referred to the arrested individual as a British-Iranian and said that the UK government was seeking more information.
There are a confirmed six dual nationals currently under arrest in Iran for various security and intelligence charges. Security officials believe that, post-nuclear deal, foreign governments are attempting to conduct a soft coup inside Iran.