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U.S.: Russian Airstrikes from Iranian Base ‘Unfortunate, but Not Unexpected’

For the second day in a row, Russian warplanes launched from an airbase in Iran to attack rebel targets in Syria. The U.S. government called these operations “unfortunate,” and suggested they might be a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

“Russia’s Defence Ministry said that SU-34 fighter bombers flying from Iran’s Hamadan air base had struck Islamic State targets in Syria’s Deir al-Zor province, destroying two command posts and killing more than 150 militants,” Reuters reports.

Russian planes also flew out of Hamadan on Tuesday.

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Russia’s use of an Iranian airbase was “unfortunate, but not surprising.”

According to Radio Free Europe, Toner said these flights from Iran “would not definitively prevent Washington from cooperating with Moscow on resolving the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo or fighting against the Islamic State extremist group in Syria.”

However, he added that American officials were “not there yet” on cooperation against ISIS with Moscow, citing the Russians’ tendency to bomb “moderate” Syrian opposition forces supported by the U.S.

The U.S. military said it was informed in advance about Russia’s bombing runs out of Iran, and the strikes “did not impact coalition operations in either Iraq or Syria during the time.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed suggestions that Russia’s actions were violating U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which prohibits selling or transferring combat aircraft to Iran.

“These aircraft are being used by Russia’s air force with Iran’s agreement as a part of an anti-terrorist operation at the request of Syria’s leadership,” Lavrov insisted at a Moscow press conference, as quoted by Reuters.  

NBC News reports Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov striking back at American criticism of the Russian flights.

“It’s against our rules to provide advice to the leadership of the U.S. State Department. But it’s hard to resist a recommendation for some State Dept. representatives to check their logic and knowledge of fundamental documents of international law,” Konashenkov snarked. “Moreover, we again advise the State Dept. representatives to take a pencil to the map and discover for themselves that Syria is an independent sovereign state.”

Konashenkov went on to compare Russia’s use of an Iranian base to the U.S. flying combat missions against ISIS out of Turkey’s Incirlik airbase.

“We would suggest they consider the answer to the simple question: whether there is at least one article of the U.N. Charter, Security Council resolution or bilateral U.S.-Syrian treaty allowing the bombardment of Syrian territory by drones and planes from the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, or any other foreign air bases,” he said.

He finished off with a personal jab at State Department spokesman Mark Toner: “We are sure that, once Mr. Mark Toner passed [this] exam, he would not think of the destruction of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists by Russian warplanes was ‘unfortunate.’”

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