The shock of a Russian base in Iran
For five years now, Washington has underestimated the threat of Iran’s infiltration in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain
The deployment of Russian bombers at an Iranian base cuts the distance to targets in Syria by around 1,000 kilometers. This is not a massive distance, so it does not really enhance Russian military capabilities. When the Americans use their bases in Qatar and Turkey to conduct operations in Iraq and Syria, the distance to targets is cut by a massive 6,000 kilometers.
Nonetheless, the move is very significant in terms of developing Russian-Iranian ties. Arab and Western shock following Russia’s announcement of its first military base in Iran reveals an underestimation of the nature, depth and intentions of ties between Tehran and Moscow.
For five years now, Washington has underestimated the threat of Iran’s infiltration in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain. It did not care about Russia’s increased support to Tehran. Worse still is the belief that the Iranian regime has changed and is ready to become a peaceful and civil state that is friendly to the West.
Most of the agreements signed between Iran and the West serve the former, and enhance its economic and military alliance with Moscow.
Arab and Western shock following Russia’s announcement of its first military base in Iran reveals an underestimation of the nature, depth and intentions of ties between Tehran and MoscowAbdulrahman al-Rashed
It is useless to get angry at the establishment of a Russian military base in Iran. Bilateral cooperation has been ongoing for a long time, resulting in the displacement of 12 million people in Syria. This is a huge, horrific number that speaks for itself. Its repercussions on security in the Middle East, Europe and the rest of the world will speak for itself as well.
The Iranian-Russian alliance has existed for 15 years now. It can be seen in the building of nuclear reactors, military contracts and trade during the phase when international sanctions were imposed on Iran.
The alliance, and the establishment of the Russian base, takes the region back to the era of the Cold War and its divisions. Despite what this means in terms of increasing regional tensions and militarization, it may convince the West to review its calculations regarding Iran and the region’s crises.
Many US politicians have warned that their government’s confidence in Tehran, and the lifting of economic restrictions, were rushed and based on misplaced good intentions. Gulf states and Israel have also warned Washington against falling for Tehran’s promises of openness and an end to its revolutionary mentality.
There has been no real change in Iran. The supreme leader is the same, and the supreme political command is the same but with different faces. The military command is the same, as are the threatening Friday sermons. What has changed is Iran’s increased war expenditure and foreign adventures.
A positive of the Russian-Iranian alliance is that our friends in Washington cannot accuse us of paranoia or belligerence. The conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Iraq are all Iranian battles to change the regional map while Russian air power supports Iranian ground forces.
Moscow feels it can use the Iranians to expand its influence and besiege areas that are traditionally allied with the West. The aim of the game and its conclusion may be bigger than what we see today.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Aug. 18, 2016.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed