An aerial view of Abu Musa island in the Persian Gulf

Hardliners In Iran Support Russia's Humiliating Stance On Islands

Wednesday, 07/19/2023

Iranian public figures are condemning local hardline media that support Russia's position questioning Iran's sovereignty over three islands in the Persian Gulf.

Russia's undermined Iran's territorial integrity by signing a joint Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) statement last week, suggesting that the ownership of the islands should be reviewed by the International Court of Justice. This action sparked a huge outcry in Iran and among diaspora Iranians, with some considering Russia's move as treason.

The Raisi administration-owned daily newspaper, Iran, on July 13 accused media outlets that condemned Russia's humiliating stance of creating unnecessary controversy. The newspaper also charged that the anti-Russian articles in the Iranian media were written under the order of the United States.

Maryam Shokrani, a journalist in Tehran who had been threatened a few months earlier by intelligence agents, expressed her views in Threads, stating, "Its name is 'Iran' newspaper, but it supports Russia. That is the same Russia that not only does not recognize Iran's ownership of the three islands, but also uses the terms 'The Gulf' and 'The Arabian Gulf' in its official accounts instead of the Persian Gulf."

The three islands were under British control but on November 30, 1971, a day after British forces left the region and just two days before the UAE was to become an official federation, Mohammad Reza Shah sent the Iranian navy to secure all three. Iranian forces remain on the islands, with only Abu Musa having a civilian population which is less than two thousand. But the United Arab Emirates has been contesting Iran’s sovereignty.

Kayhan's editor Hossein Shariatmadari

On Monday, ultraconservative daily Kayhan's editor Hossein Shariatmadari wrote in a commentary that those, including many former diplomats who have criticized Tehran's pro-Russia and pro-China foreign policy, are demanding too much from the government. 

Kayhan defended the government's relative inaction in response to Russia's behavior and added that Iran could not possibly declare war against Russia or sever its ties with Moscow. Shariatmadari's article, particularly his attacks on the country's reformists who criticized Russia, was perceived as siding with Moscow by Iranian media both in and out of Iran.

Shariatmadari accused Russia's critics of selling out their country to the United States and said that the former diplomats who have criticized Russia are suffering from a feeling of inferiority in front of the United States. Meanwhile, he accused former Foreign Minister Javad Zarif of having been prepared to start negotiations with the UAE over the islands' ownership. 

Another ultraconservative newspaper, Hamshahri, which is affiliated with the Tehran Municipality, expressed support for Russia's position and even endorsed Moscow's war against Ukraine during the past week. The daily argued that Ukraine should not have defended itself against Russia's onslaught.

Map of Strait of Hormuz

Sara Massoumi, another Iranian journalist, criticized Iran newspaper's approach, stating, "It is shameful that a newspaper that still remembers the Iran-Iraq war and its chemically wounded veterans is so fascinated by Russia that it portrays the aggressor in the Ukraine war as the victim."

Meanwhile, in an article in Etemad Online website, reformist politician Esmail Gerami Moghaddam wrote that Iranian conservatives' Looking East policy is against the country's national interests. He also called for an appropriate and proportional reaction on the part of the Iranian government to Russia's behavior. 

Calling on the Iranian government to adopt logical positions and carry out a balanced foreign policy, Moghaddam asked, "What makes you believe that Russia is superior to the United States so that you defend it so wholeheartedly?"

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