The United States is looking at whether Russia has violated a U.N. Security Council resolution on military dealings with Tehran by using an Iranian air base to carry out strikes inside Syria, the State Department said on Wednesday. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said U.S. government attorneys had not yet decided whether they think Russia's use of the Iranian base is a violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which was passed as part of the Iran nuclear deal. The resolution governs some military interactions between Iran and other countries, including the supply, sale or transfer of military technologies or the provision of training or financial assistance related to the acquisition of new technologies. "As I understand it, it's not just supplying the Iranians certain weapons or certain offensive weaponry. It's more complex than that," Toner told a news briefing. "Our lawyers are looking at it. We haven't made an assessment," he added.
In a move that could reverberate across the Middle East, Iran confirmed Wednesday that Russia is using its territory to launch airstrikes in Syria even as a second wave of Moscow's bombers flew out of the Islamic Republic to hit targets in the war-ravaged country. The development represents a historical rapprochement with Russia that could rile U.S.-allied Gulf neighbors, strengthen Syria's Bashar Assad and impact the war against DAESH. Russia first announced the strikes on Tuesday from near the Iranian city of Hamedan, 280 kilometers southwest of the Iranian capital, Tehran. On Wednesday, Russia's Defense Ministry said another wave of warplanes had departed from Iran, striking targets in eastern Syria.
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, then gave the first government acknowledgement of the Russian operation. He said the Russians were using Iran's Shahid Nojeh air base some 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Hamedan, a secluded base where Russian warplanes were detected landing late last year. Boroujerdi said the Russian Tu-22M3 bombers landed inside Iran only to refuel under the permission of the country's Supreme National Security Council, a move that allowed them to carry a larger bomb load of more than 20 metric tons. "There is no stationing of Russian forces in the territory of the Islamic Republic of Iran," Boroujerdi added.
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov defended the use of Iranian military bases for airstrikes in Syria, rejecting allegations that it could be a violation of U.N. resolutions prohibiting the supply, sale and transfer of combat aircraft to Iran. "In the case we're discussing there has been no supply, sale or transfer of warplanes to Iran," Lavrov told a news conference. "The Russian air force uses these warplanes with Iran's approval in order to take part in the counter-terrorism operation" in Syria.