Information Warfare: Russia And Iran Work It Out


September 1, 2016: Image and nuance count for more in the Middle East than in other parts of the world. An example of this was visible in mid-August when Russia proclaimed that it was establishing an air base in Iran for its Tu-22M3 and Su-34 bombers. From August 16th to the 19th the Russian warplanes could be seen landing and taking off from the airbase at Hamadan in northwest Iran. Then suddenly the Russian bombers and their ground crews were gone. For several days it was unclear exactly what had happened. By the end of August the truth came out. The Iranians ordered the Russians out of the base because Iranians in general were angry at the Russians for not keeping quiet about this arrangement. Not wanting Iranians or anyone else to think Iran had let foreigners establish a military base inside Iran the Russians were told to get out quickly and some Russians realized the reasons why and told their countrymen to keep quiet about it. Too many Russians had forgotten how delicate the situation was and how especially unpleasant it was for most Iranians if the Russians were not just stopping at Hamadan to refuel and rearm or fix some minor problem but were instead setting up a Russian controlled air base. Russia has been seen as a threat by Iranians since the 19th century and the current alliance in Syria is seen as temporary.

Neighboring Iraq did not object to Russian warplanes flying overhead to and from targets in Syria and even complied with Russian requests to order civilian air traffic out of Iraqi air space the Russian bombers would be using on their way to hit ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) as well as other rebel groups in Syria. But Iraq was also reluctant to allow Russian, or any other foreign warplanes, to operate from bases inside Iraq.

Russian diplomats and state controlled media quickly let Iran and Iranians in general know that Russia was apologetic and in error. Iran later said the Russians might be allowed back in, but only as transients and not in a base where Russians control access and fly the Russian flag. Then Russian state controlled media began running stories about how it could be profitable for Iran to host Russian warplanes once more. That’s how it’s done in this part of the world.


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