Following a military agreement finalized between Iran and Russia over the last few months, Russian airstrikes against Syrian rebels have been launched from Iranian air bases in the Iranian city of Hamadan.
The move represents a controversial escalation of what may be a form of cold war, with the U.S. and its allies backing some members of the rebel coalition and Iran, Russia and others backing Assad’s security forces.
Russia had previously confirmed that its Tupolev-22 bombers had been flown out to Iran after the agreement had been signed. It has now also been confirmed that the bombers have conducted airstrikes on Syria.
The Russian action represents the first time Iran has allowed foreign military activity to occur on its soil since the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
Tu-22М3 long range bombers and SU-34 strike fighters struck targets near Aleppo, Deir Ezzor and Idlib on Tuesday morning, said the Russian ministry of defense.
“Cooperation between Tehran and Moscow against terrorism in Syria is of a strategic character,” said Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council to the country’s IRNA news agency. “We must unite out potential and capabilities.”
The move will improve Russia’s ability to launch airstrikes in Syria. Previously, it had only been able to launch its planes from bases in southern Russia.
The current extent of Russia’s deployment of planes from Iranian bases is unknown.
Iran and Russia are the two biggest backers of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s loyalist forces. The Syrian Civil War has claimed more than 290,000 lives since it began in 2011, with the area in and around Aleppo become a humanitarian disaster in the process.