A picture of the late Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi during a ceremony to honor him in Qom, May 20, 2024

Western Leaders' Responses to Raisi's Death Ignite Backlash

Tuesday, 05/21/2024

Following the news of President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian's deaths, messages of condolence quickly poured in from some predictable corner of the world.

Among them were Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Backlash, however, erupted over the reactions from several EU officials and a NATO spokesperson.

On Monday, NATO spokesperson Farah Dakhlallah said that the Western defense alliance sends its "condolences to the people of Iran for the death of President Raisi, Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian, and others who perished in the helicopter crash."

Iranians, who have widely celebrated the deaths of the senior government officials, swiftly reacted with outrage to the statements of condolence.

“I am flabbergasted by this tweet. This is completely inappropriate on so many levels.,” former NATO Assistant Secretary General Marshall S. Billingslea said on X.

In their responses, Iranians have been quick to highlight Raisi’s role in the 1988 massacre of thousands of political prisoners, the regime’s backing of terror groups – and the use of Shahed drones to terrorize Ukrainian civilians.

Outrage from Iranians only intensified when the President of the EU Council and the EU’s top diplomat both tweeted their “condolences.”

“The EU expresses its sincere condolences for the death of President Raisi and Foreign Minister Abdollahian, as well as other members of their delegation and crew in a helicopter accident. Our thoughts go to the families,” EU Council President Charles Michel wrote.

A statement posted by the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell reads: “The EU expresses its sympathies to the families of all the victims and to the Iranian citizens affected.”

MEPs and European MPs have since weighed in, stating their opposition to the comments made by the EU’s leadership.

Conservative UK parliamentarian Alicia Kearns said she found herself “bemused” by the expression of condolences for “a President whose regime has committed femicide” and “transnational repression and attempted assassinations across Europe.”

“It is an absolute mystery to me how the EU Commission can show #EU solidarity with Iran. What a miserable hashtag, what a mockery of the brave fighters for human rights in Iran. I expect an explanation for this,” German politician and defense veteran Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann wrote.

Before news of Raisi’s death was confirmed, controversy first erupted when the European commissioner for crisis management posted on X, confirming the provision of satellite assistance to Iranian rescuers with and ending his post with “#EUSolidarity.”

According to Politico, a Commission official said that while the tweet was consistent with the EU’s guidelines on humanitarian aid, they personally found the expression of solidarity “odd.”

In response to the condemnation, Commission spokesperson Balazs Ujvari wrote: “Neither the EU Civil Protection Mechanism nor the Copernicus satellite system are driven by political considerations. Any country can request assistance of humanitarian or civilian nature through these channels, and the [Commission] does its best to help.”

Flemish MEP Assita Kanko, with the right-wing European Conservatives and Reformers group said she was “shocked” that Lenarčič posted a message on behalf of the EU proposing to activate EU solidarity to save the Iranian president.

“The people in Iran are literally and figuratively strangled by the regime… European solidarity? With whom. And with whose money?,” she wrote.

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