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A ‘Russia-Iran Condominium’ That Doesn’t Exist

To refer to a "Russia-Iran condominium" in the region is to distort and misrepresent the facts beyond recognition.
iran map

Last week, Charles Krauthammer was wringing his hands about U.S. “powerlessness” and “withdrawal” in response to reports that Iran had allowed Russia to use one of their airbases to launch attacks in Syria:

The reordering of the Middle East is proceeding apace. Where for 40 years the U.S.-Egypt alliance anchored the region, a Russia-Iran condominium is now dictating events. That’s what you get after eight years of U.S. retrenchment and withdrawal.

To refer to a “Russia-Iran condominium” in the region is to distort and misrepresent the facts beyond recognition, and to say that it is “dictating events” credits them with far more control and influence than they have. Their combined efforts are scarcely “dictating events” in Syria, and they certainly aren’t doing so anywhere else. Calling it a condominium implies that they hold sway over the entire region and have divvied it up between them, but the reality is that the influence of both in the rest of the region remains sharply limited because of their support for the Syrian government. A more accurate assessment would say that they are both struggling to keep that government propped up at considerable cost.

Krauthammer repeats the usual falsehood that the U.S. is engaged in “retrenchment and withdrawal” in the region in order to pin blame for events on an imaginary U.S. foreign policy and to avoid acknowledging the numerous failures of constant warfare and meddling for more than a decade. Hard-liners in the U.S. routinely misrepresent what is happening abroad to make their preferred policies of even deeper interference in other countries seem more palatable, and it is important to understand how much of their “analysis” is simply made up or extremely misleading.

Take Russia’s use of Iranian airbases, for example. While it did briefly show a greater degree of cooperation between Russia and Iran in the war in Syria, it ended almost as soon as it began. Iran didn’t care for Russian boasting about the use of the base, and now won’t let them use it:

An Iranian official said Monday that Russia would no longer use the Islamic Republic’s air bases to strike targets in Syria — an apparent rebuke of Moscow for announcing the deployment in the press last week.

At a news conference in Tehran, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said that Russia’s use of Iran’s Hamadan Air Base was “temporary, based on a Russian request,” and that it is “finished for now.” Russia “has no base in Iran,” Ghasemi added, according to an Associated Press translation of his remarks.

This episode was unusual, but as it turns out it was also ad hoc and temporary. Instead of illustrating a supposed Russian-Iranian “condominium,” it proved to be insignificant and fleeting.