MOSCOW: Moscow brushed off American suggestions that its deployment of military aircraft to Iran violates a UN arms embargo yesterday (Wednesday), as Russian jets flew missions out of an Iranian base for a second consecutive day.
Moscow said several SU 34 fighter bombers flew out of Iran's Shahid Nojeh Air Base, 130 miles west of Tehran, to strike Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant positions near Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria yesterday morning. "In the case we're discussing there has been no supply, sale or transfer of fighter jets to Iran," Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said.
"The Russian air force uses these fighter jets with Iran's approval in order to take part in the counter-terrorism operation."
Russian aircraft began flying missions out of Iran on Tuesday, in a surprise move that cements the two countries' de facto military alliance in Syria.
Mark Toner, a US State Department spokesman, warned that Russia's deployment "could very well be a violation" of Security Council resolution 2231, which bans the sale or supply of military technology including fast jets to Iran.
He added that the US government was continuing to assess whether the sanctions were violated and said John Kerry, the US secretary of state, had discussed the matter with Mr Lavrov.
Russian officials rubbished the suggestion. "It is not our policy to give advice to the US State Department. However, it is difficult to resist suggesting they test certain employees' grasp of logic and the fundamental documents of international law," Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov said in an acidly worded statement published on Facebook.
Moscow and Tehran have both deployed forces to Syria in support of Bashar al-Assad's embattled regime. The level of military co-ordination between Moscow and Tehran is likely to complicate nascent plans for a Russia-US alliance against Isil and other groups that both countries consider terrorists.
The Russian deployment is controversial in Iran because the constitution adopted after the 1979 revolution specifically bars any foreign power from basing troops in the country.
Senior Iranian officials said that the arrangement is legal because it only extends to permission to refuel.