Monday, Aug. 22, just a week after the Russian defense ministry proudly released images of the first Russian bombardments in Syria to be launched from Nojeh airbase, which Tehran had granted Moscow near the Iranian town of Hamedan, the Iranian defense ministry snatched the concession back in a public rebuff for Moscow.
The Russians had presented its Iranian acquisition as the twin of the air base granted by Syria at Kmeimim near Latakia.
However, the Iranian defense ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi announced baldly on Monday that the Russian mission “is finished for now.”
He added that the Russian air strikes in Syria were “temporary, based on a Russian request;” they were carried out with “mutual understanding and with Iran’s permission” and that the Russian mission “is finished, for now.”
Iranian sources claimed that this stinging slap to the Kremlin was prompted by mounting Iranian popular and parliamentary criticism, on the grounds that permission to a foreign power to use an Iranian base for the first time since World War II violated Article 146 of the Islamic Republic’s constitution.
Attempts by Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani and other regime officials to explain that the Russians had not been given an air base in Iran, only permission to use it to support the war Bashar Assad was waging against terrorists, an interest shared by Iran, fell on deaf ears.
A public outcry on this scale against any steps taken the ayatollahs’ regime is unusual enough to warrant exploration to uncover the hand behind it and its motives. This is all the more pressing in view of the stunning impact of the abrupt Iranian curtailment of the Russian air base venture after no more than three sorties were waged against Syrian targets: Stopped in its tracks for now – even before takeoff – is Vladimir Putin’s effort to promote his grand plan for a new and powerful Russian-Iranian-Turkish-Iraqi-Syrian pact.