MOSCOW, August 18. /TASS/. Iran’s consent to let the Russian air and space force use the Shahid Hojeh air base near Hamadan is a clear sign of a military-political breakthrough in relations between Moscow and Tehran, senior research fellow Vladimir Sazhin, of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Oriental Studies institute, has told TASS.
"The air base near Hamadan is very well equipped and fully suits the requirements of our long-range aircraft," he recalled. "It should be remembered that it is not our base in the usual sense, it remains an Iranian facility. Russian planes just use its runway. It is a stopover airfield. Our troops and special services are absent."
He is certain that Russian air raids from the base near Hamadan would be certainly more effective, because the distance to the target is far less and the planes can carry a greater payload.
Sazhin said that in tactical terms the interests of Russia and Iran are currently identical.
"It’s clear that military officials do not make decisions regarding the use of the base at Hamadan. It is a purely political matter," Sazhin said.
"In recent years, in particular, after Hasan Rouhani took over the Iranian presidency Moscow-Tehran relations have seen tangible improvement," he said. "The presidents of the two countries have had several meetings. They maintain regular contact by telephone. There are contacts between the ministries of foreign affairs and other ministries. Trading and economic relations leave much to be desired, though. The Russian-Iranian trade is slightly above one and a half billion dollars. In contrast to the potential of our countries the figure looks meager."
"There are many problems - historical and contemporary - that hinder onward development of bilateral relations," Sazhin remarked. "But this military-political breakthrough, demonstrated by Iran, which has allowed to use its base near Hamadan indicates that the level of political and military relations between Tehran and Moscow is very good."
Sazhin believes that although Russia and Iran see eye to eye on the Syrian issue, considerable disagreements between them still remain.
"Firstly, in strategic terms Moscow is looking forward to a certain type of settlement in Syria, while Tehran expects a different outcome," he believes. "Both countries wish the state system in Syria to remain unchanged, but even here some discrepancies exist. Moscow does not strongly insist Bashar Assad should stay in power while Tehran is adamant he must remain Syria’s president."
Apart from the political aspects of the Syrian settlement, Sazhin said, Russia and Iran have some rifts regarding the mode of combat operations in Syria. "It’s a rather strong disappointment for the Iranians Russian planes do not fully support operations by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards fighting on Assad’s side and Hezbollah forces, to a certain extent subordinate to Tehran," he said.
"On the other hand, Moscow has said more than once that the Iranian ground troops operating in Syria in many respects fail to cope with their tasks," Sazhin explains. "One of the reasons why the Iranians have allowed to use their airdrome is it will help step up air support for Iranian forces in Syria and the Syrian army proper.