Russia has said it launched strikes against the so-called "Islamic State" from air bases in Iran. It's a noticeable change of strategy for Moscow as it continues to aid the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
Moscow announced on Tuesday that it had widened its bombing campaign in Syria by using Iran as a base to launch air strikes against militant targets.
A statement released by Russia's defense ministry said that a fleet of long-range and frontline bombers had taken off from the Hamedan air base in Iran to conduct air strikes against members of the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) and al-Nusra terrorist groups.
The ministry said the bombing campaigns had destroyed five warehouses used to store weapons and ammunition, as well as jihadist training camps in the provinces of Aleppo, Deir Ezzor and Idlib. In addition to this, a number of militants were killed when Russian planes struck command centers in the targeted areas.
Change of strategy
The campaign is the first time Russia has used a foreign power's military base to conduct air strikes in the Middle East, having normally flown planes out of its own air bases in Moscow and also in Syria. It's also virtually unprecedented for Iran to allow another world power to use its territory for military strikes.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the cooperation between the two countries would "allow us to find common ground and start fighting together for bringing peace to that territory."
The decision to use Iranian air bases would also drastically cut the time and cost necessary for Russian planes to reach Syria.
US and Russia at odds
Tehran has also hyped its increased cooperation with Russia, with the country's state news agency, IRNA, quoting a top official as saying that the two countries had exchanged "capacities and facilities."
Shoigu, meanwhile, also said Russia had made progress in its ongoing discussions with the US over the future of the embattled Middle Eastern country.
Washington has continuously butted heads with Moscow, which, like Tehran, supports the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Russian officials have urged the US to persuade the rebels it supports from withdrawing from areas controleld by al Qaeda. The US, meanwhile, has accused Russia of purposefully targeting many of the "moderate" rebels seeking to oust Assad.
blc/rc (AP, AFP)