Ukrainian soldiers stand behind the portrait of a serviceman killed on February 19 in a shelling of Ukrainian positions. February 22, 2022

Ukrainian soldiers stand behind the portrait of a serviceman killed on February 19 in a shelling of Ukrainian positions. February 22, 2022

Iran Blames NATO Over Ukraine, Critics Say Tehran Backs Russia


Iran's foreign ministry Tuesday urged all parties to the Ukraine crisis to avoid escalation while accusing NATO and the United States of being “provocative.”

Etemad Online, website of reformist Etemad newspaper, quickly portrayed Saeed Khatibzadeh words as "Iran's siding with Russia."

"The Islamic Republic of Iran invites all sides to have restraint and believes that any action that caused escalation of tension should be avoided," Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement on the foreign ministry website. He said that NATO, under US leadership, had worsened the situation in by "meddling and provocative actions,” a likely reference to NATO refusing to rule out Ukrainian membership.

Reza Ghobeishawi, of the editorial board of conservative Asr-e Iran newspaper, tweeted Tuesday that the state broadcaster (IRIB) was biased. "IRIB's two o'clock news report on the Ukrainian crisis was fully supportive of Russia,” he wrote. “It censored the Russian troops' arrival into Ukraine.”

While social media had been awash with opinions and theories, most media in Iran stuck to reporting news with little analysis. Interest has warmed up since Russian President Vladimir Putin's decree recognizing two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.

Sacrificial meat

In tweets, supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have repeated his allegations in late January of a US-Russian “dirty deal” to invade Iran and Ukraine. The former president said he had “accurate knowledge” that the US would “allow Russia to invade Ukraine…[and] the US to move onto Iran.”

Amir Tafreshi, a founding member of the Justice-Seeking Student Movement, an Islamic student union, tweeted that Iran should condemnNATO for provocation and Russia for not respecting Ukraine's territorial integrity. "Any delay in the announcement of this policy will strengthen the suspicions that Russia dominates Iran's foreign policy,” he opined.

Iran's state broadcaster in its reports has highlighted that Yemen's Houthis, Cuba, Syria, and Venezuela have supported Russia's position. Among Iran's neighbors and allies, so far Turkey has condemned Putin's recognition of the breakaway Ukrainian regions.

Etemad-e Melli newspaper published a commentary by political analyst Ahmad Zeidabadi saying that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would not affect the nuclear talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna, even if it had “a destructive effect on circumstances” once agreement was reached in Vienna on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal.

Afifeh Abedi, researcher at the Center for Strategic Research, an arm of the Expediency Discernment Council, tweeted that Ukraine was “the living and perfect example of the sacrificial meat that Russia and the West have divided between themselves … It's Iranian statesmen's duty to only seek maximal securing of Iran's own national interests … as the sensitive stage of Vienna talks coincides with the developments in Ukraine…”

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