Iran’s ruler Ali Khamenei during a religious ceremony in Tehran, December 2023

Khamenei Silent As Russia Again Undermines Iran's Territorial Integrity

Sunday, 12/24/2023

Russia's support for the United Arab Emirates in its dispute with Iran over the ownership of three Persian Gulf islands has turned into a controversy in Tehran.

The Iranian leadership, typically reticent about Russia's double standards, has, for the second time this year, heightened its response to Moscow's stance. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's most senior foreign policy adviser, former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, implicitly criticized Russia's behavior by stating, "Iran will not allow any foreign entity to intervene in its internal affairs."

In a similar situation earlier this year, Velayati, following Russia's joint statement with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in September, emphasized the importance of Iran's friendly and strategic ties with Russia. He pointed out that both sides' bilateral and regional interests should be considered. Notably, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei remained silent, as is often the case, regarding Russia's actions that undermine Iran's territorial integrity.

Recently, the Iranian Foreign Ministry criticized "part of the statement of the 6th Arab-Russian Cooperation Forum held in Morocco, dismissing the claims on three Iranian islands as baseless and unacceptable." Foreign Ministry Spokesman Nasser Kanaani asserted that "The Islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb, and Lesser Tunb are eternal parts of Iran and inseparable from the Islamic Republic." He underscored that Iran's sovereignty over these islands is non-negotiable, emphasizing the country's commitment to protecting its territorial integrity.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Tehran on July 19, 2022

In response to the Foreign Ministry's statement, Iranian international lawyer Reza Nasri highlighted that Russia's support for the UAE's sovereignty claims over the Persian Gulf islands contrasts with Iran's support for Russia in the Ukraine conflict. Nasri emphasized the need for Russia to be a strategic ally to Iran and called for respect for Iran's territorial integrity.

Britain, which maintained control of Abu Musa, and the Greater and Lesser Tunb it had occupied in the 19th century, withdrew its forces from the Persian Gulf in 1971 and the United Arab Emirates was formed. However, Iran’s Imperial government at the time decided to reclaim what it believed were historical Iranian islands.

Mohammad Reza Shah sent the Iranian navy to secure all three in November of the same year, two days before UAE was established. Iranian forces remain on the islands, with only Abu Musa having much of a civilian population of several thousand.

X (Twitter) users criticized the untimeliness of Russia's behavior, especially as Iran is working to finalize a strategic security pact with Russia. Some social media users labeled Iranian officials as "traitors" over Tehran's response.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Amirabdollahian called on Moscow to respect Iran's territorial integrity and sovereignty, after Russia supported the UAE’s sovereignty claims over three Persian Gulf islands. He said during a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov: "The Islamic Republic of Iran completely rejects any claim in this regard by any party. Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries is one of the fundamental principles in relations between countries, and Tehran makes no compromises with any party when it comes to respect for its territorial integrity and sovereignty issues." Lavrov responded that "The sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Iran has always been respected by Russia and Moscow's official policy in this regard should never be doubted."

Earlier in this year, the media pointed out that some Iranian hardliners supported Russia's humiliating stances on the three Iranian islands in the Persian Gulf. At the time Raisi-administration-owned daily Iran charged that Iranian media outlets that criticized Russia's positions get their orders from the United States.


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