The standoff between Iran and the international community over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is intensifying. Iran has recently revealed the first-of-its-kind underground airbase, dubbed “Eagle 44”, capable of housing fighter jets and long-range cruise missiles. This move is seen as a response to the US withdrawal from the JCPOA in 2018, as well as the five-year arms transfer ban that lapsed in 2020.
Iranian officials have championed the airbase as a way to better conduct varied operations, and have taken an aggressive tone towards its chief adversary, Israel. Major General Mohammad Bagheri, Iran’s Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, has warned that any attack from Israel will see a response from their many air force bases, including Eagle 44. This threat has further heightened tensions between the two countries, particularly following the election of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has vowed to be tough on Iran.
Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, believes that the base “represents a continuation of a trend we’ve seen in the Islamic Republic’s security policy for quite some time now.” He explains that Tehran understands that long-range strike assets, such as drones and missiles, are its most significant deterrent weapon and that they pose a threat to Iran’s neighbors.
This is not the first time Iran has revealed underground bases used to house missiles and drones, or the ability to launch ballistic missiles from underground. Ben Taleblu adds that Tehran “understands that without hardening, dispersing them, and making them into a more survivable force, it’s not going to be able to keep these weapons.”
The Iranian government has also accused Israel of hitting a military factory with a drone strike, though no evidence has been provided to back these accusations. Israel has not commented on the attack.
The international community is watching the situation closely, as the standoff between Iran and the JCPOA continues to escalate. There is growing concern that the near death of the nuclear deal could mean the end of diplomacy. With tensions between the two countries at an all-time high, it remains to be seen how the situation will unfold and what the consequences will be.