War in UkraineIran's conflict of interests
According to the Iranian news agency Farsnews, Iran's President Ibrahim Raisi spoke on the phone to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin last Friday. In the conversation, Raisi reportedly said that the situation was tense "because of the eastward expansion of NATO" and that this posed "a serious threat to the stability and security of independent countries in various areas". He expressed his hope that what is happening now will end in favour of the entire region. Raisi, referring to Iran's ongoing nuclear negotiations with the West, said Iran was moving towards a permanent deal – with security guarantees, an end to "political slogans" and a "real end" to sanctions.
Putin apparently replied that the current state of affairs was a justified response to decades of hostility and efforts by the West to harm his country's security. He pointed to Iran's bilateral co-operation with the International Atomic Energy Agency and stressed the need to continue it. The phone call was widely reported in the Iranian press.
Iran's foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, tweeted that NATO had provoked the Ukraine crisis. He went on to say that war could not be the solution and that a ceasefire was necessary to resolve the conflict. In a call to the ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Kiev, the foreign minister instructed him to find out about the situation of Iranians in Ukraine and to ensure their safety or allow them to leave the country.
The #Ukraine crisis is rooted in NATO's provocations.
We don't believe that resorting to war is a solution.
Imperative to establish ceasefire & to find a political and democratic resolution.
— H.Amirabdollahian امیرعبداللهیان (@Amirabdolahian) February 24, 2022
The spokesman for the foreign ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh, expressed regret at the commencement of military operations and the escalation of the conflict. The Islamic Republic of Iran is following the developments in Ukraine with great concern, he said: "It is regrettable that the eastward expansion of NATO, initiated by the U.S., has led to the Eurasian region now being on the brink of a full-scale crisis."
Sermons in Iran last Friday also focused on Russia's attack on Ukraine. Friday preachers represent the Iranian head-of-state Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which means the topics they cover are usually decided centrally in Tehran. Their task is to address political and social issues of the day in addition to prayer. The unanimous tenor last week: the USA is to blame for Russia invading Ukraine. A simple reiteration of the government's official position.
Outrage among moderates, reformers
Moderates and reformers within the Islamic Republic have a different take on the political situation. Reformist political analyst Sadegh Zibakalam, for example, said of the occupation of Ukraine by Russian military forces that the prevailing anti-Western worldview in Iran has led to "all of us putting our eggs in the Russia-China basket and necessarily wishing that Russia and China are at war with the West. It's very sad that our welfare and prosperity depends on enmity, on war between East and West."
Forty-three years ago, Iran believed it would soon witness the birth of a new world order, the renowned scientist continued: "We thought all countries in the world, East and West, would queue up to copy us. Now we have sunk so low that we are praying for Russia to attack Ukraine, for China to fight with the U.S. over Taiwan, or for the EU to get into a crisis. In short, for the whole world to sink into misery so that we can benefit from it."
Ali Motahari, a former parliamentarian and a moderate Islamist, commented that Iranian state television was parroting the Russian government's official position "as if Iran were a colony of Russia".
Shahram Fattahi is an economist and social scientist at Razi University in the Kurdish city of Kermanshah. On the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he told Saednews that those waiting for a NATO attack on Russia should consider that the West will not send troops to Ukraine. "They evacuated their own citizens from Ukraine to avoid a military confrontation with Russia."
The West has no interest in confronting Russia in this war, he said. And Russia is not worried about not being able to sell gas and oil to the West anymore: China has agreed to buy. The West's only option is to supply weapons to Ukraine's battered army, Fattahi added: "But given the Russian army's swift action, that will be as much help as trying to heal a broken bone with a plaster."
Fattahi advised against taking sides – Iran should not support Russian aggression. This, he admitted, would "come at a high cost", which he believed could prove very expensive given Iran's existing capacities. He recommended adopting a realistic and cautious stance: "Everyone knows that Russia has never been one of our strategic allies. Our priority must be the national interests of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran."
© Iran Journal/Qantara.de 2022