Russia has has opened up a new front in the Syria conflict by using a base in Iran to launch its airstrikes.
It’s the first time Moscow has struck targets inside Syria from a third country.
The long-range bombers took off from Hamedan in north west Iran and reportedly hit Aleppo along with Idlib and Deir al-Zour provinces.
Analyst Andrew Tabler who is a Senior Fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy believes the move is an “escalation”:
“This marks the first time that Russia has based out of Iran and marks an escalation in terms of the fight in Syria. I think this kind of brinkmanship is trying to force the Obama administration into a settlement in Syria before the next president comes to power, and the Russians believe that the next president, particularly if it’s Hillary Clinton, will be much more aggressive militarily in places like Syria.”
The United States said it was still assessing the extent of Russian-Iranian cooperation but described the new development as “unfortunate”.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said:
“It speaks to a continuation of a pattern we’ve seen of Russia continuing to carry out air strikes, now with Iran’s direct assistance, … that predominantly target moderate Syrian opposition forces.”
It is thought the Iranian deployment will boost Russia’s image as a central player in the Middle East and allow the Russian air force to cut flight times and increase bombing payloads.
Moscow has close ties with Tehran which in turn is a firm ally of President Bashar al-Assad and has provided the Syrian president with significant military and financial support.
The UK based Syrian Observatory for Human rights says heavy air strikes on Tuesday hit many targets in an around Aleppo killing dozens. Local groups said 27 civilians had died.