Iran's Friday imams across the country condemned the United States over the Ukraine war, following the government's position of support for the Russian ally.

"The American adventurisms are behind the recent incidents in Ukraine,” Mohammad-Javad Haj-Aliakbari told Tehran's Friday prayer congregation. “The one responsible is America, which has sacrificed Ukraine to its own greed.”

In Qom, the imam Mohammad Saeedi said “America and the western barbarians wage regional and international wars to sell their weapons." He suggested that "the management of the world" would be better in the hands of "pious people."

In Sari, provincial capital of Mazandaran, Mohammad-Bagher Mohammadi said Moscow was entitled to ensure its own security given Nato’s expansion in eastern Europe. Russia “attacked Ukraine to make Nato give up its meaningless thoughts,” he told his congregation.

Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader Tuesday called for a peaceful settlement while suggesting Ukraine had fallen victim to US policies. “Support by Western governments for administrations and politicians that have been installed by them is a mirage,” Khamenei said, referring to the messy withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan after Washington’s agreement with the Taliban.

Ukrainian refugees crossing into Poland. March 1, 2022

Khamenei also claimed that Ukrainians were not resisting strongly "because they did not agree with [their] government." Kayhan newspaper made a similar allegation this week referring to “scarecrow” defense, while the world has watched the fighting and many have admired the Ukrainian resistance to the invasion.

Puppets

Hasan Alidadi, Friday imam in Kerman province, made similar remarks in his sermon Friday: "Regarding the recent Russian attack on Ukraine…when governments are puppets and people's role is not marked, city after city surrenders as fast as you see." Yousef Tabatabeinejad, the Friday imam in Esfahan, also argued Ukrainians were leaving because "they are not in agreement with the government".

General guidelines for over 600 Friday sermons are set out by the Friday Prayer Policymaking Council, whose head and members are appointed by Khamenei.

Alongside India, Iraq, Pakistan and South Africa, Iran was among 35 countries that abstained from a vote Wednesday at UN General Assembly condemning Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. Four countries − Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea and Syria − joined Russia in voting against the motion. Israel ended up voting in favor after earlier expressing neutrality.

Support voiced for Ukraine

While the government, its media and imams have supported Russia, thousands of Iranians on social media have condemned the invasion and vented anger at leaders for siding with Moscow.

Even in government-controlled media, some pundits and editors have cautiously criticized Russia and demanded a more neutral position by Iran.

Mohammad-Reza Khabbaz, a reformist former member of parliament, told Arman-e Melli newspaper in an article published Thursday that he had expected Iran “to oppose such aggression and condemn it in the early days.” Khabbaz said Iran should “condemn those [in the west] who were responsible for creating these circumstances but shouldn't allow Russia to take benefit from our silence.”

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