In an audio file received by IranWire, Faezeh Hashemi, an outspoken political activist in Iran and daughter of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, slammed the Islamic Republic’s capitulating stance toward Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. In the recording, Hashemi can be heard apparently speaking to a small crowd, calling the Islamic Republic’s overall policy and stance “tumbling into the lap of the East”. She also castigates the greed of Russian premier Vladimir Putin and the questionable performance of Western countries in diffusing the situation.
Russian troops mounted an assault on various Ukrainian cities yesterday, with at least two cities and a multitude of Ukrainian military bases targeted by missiles. Despite the unprovoked and illegal nature of the attack, and the widespread global condemnation that followed, several officials of the Islamic Republic have gone on record trying to justify the invasion. In a phone call with Putin reported in Iranian media, President Ebrahim Raisi also repeated the Kremlin’s official line, saying: "NATO expansion is a serious threat to the stability and security of independent states in various regions”. He was quoted as having “expressed hope that what is happening will benefit nations and the region."
In the audio file, Faezeh Hashemi can be heard saying this was a predictable reaction on the part of the executive. “The Islamic Republic has been ‘anti-Western’ for many years, and has tumbled into the lap of the East. In line with this policy, it is natural for the Islamic Republic to side with Russia on its violation of international law.
“Of course, in my opinion, it is not rational at all. We ought to have either remained neutral or condemned Russia’s having acted outside international standards. Officials did not endorse the declaration of independence of Ukraine's two separatist provinces [Donetsk and Luhansk], but have implicitly backed Russia by blaming the West. Their stance was completely wrong, but it was also in line with the policy the Islamic Republic has pursued for years.”
What is the Point of Backing Russia Now?
"The Islamic Republic supports Russia without having any interest," Faezeh Hashemi can be heard saying in response to a question from the group she is addressing in the clip. "We have auctioned off our national interests to the East so that we can oppose the West for no clear reason. We pay ransoms to the East so that we might not be alone in the world. True, they have sometimes supported Iran, but they have benefited more than Iran. We are constantly giving concessions to the East with our soil, with our fish, with the Caspian Sea, and with contracts, the contents of which have been kept secret. We are selling our homeland for the sake of foreign policy, and [in doing so] we have not moved within the framework of our national interests."
Though Tehran has supported Russia in every way, Hashemi points out, Russia has “humiliated” Iran on various occasions, or even acted against its interests. “The harm done to Iran is not only by Russia. Iran's support for the East is causing us to lose the West as well. We have upset the balance of the official world diplomacy."
A Closing Window of Opportunity
Some analysts have said Iran could try to use the situation to its advantage, improving relations with the West and resuming oil and gas sales since widespread sanctions have been newly imposed on Russia. "Now that Germany has announced that it has stopped the Nord Stream 2 project,” Hashemi says, “we could take advantage of this situation. But unfortunately it has been shown that we do not have the wisdom and prudence to do so.”
"How many major gas exporter countries do we have? Iran, Russia and Qatar. We have the ability to export gas ourselves. We could conclude the JCPOA [nuclear] talks, strengthen our foothold in gas exports and rid ourselves of this economic situation. Now is the time to establish rational relations with the West within the framework of our economic interests. But there has to be rationality.”
On February 8, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei told an assembled group of Iranian Air Force commanders that the Islamic Republic of Iran was the target of "a combined offensive by the enemy", adding: "We cannot always remain in a defensive position. We must have a combined offensive policy in various fields, including the media, security and economy." Hashemi held this up as an example of the “irrationality” of which she was speaking: “The first question that arises is, did we ever even have a defensive policy?”
Russia as a Resurgent Superpower
In another part of the recording, Faezeh Hashemi expresses concern over the weakness of Western countries, as she sees it, and the growth of Russian influence and military might in the region. "It seems Putin intends to pursue an expansionist policy, and restore its role as a world superpower. At the same time, Western reactions to Russia's rise to power have been extremely weak, vacillating from threatening to [militarily] defend Ukraine and take a serious stand against Russian aggression to sanctions.
“This affair is to the detriment of Iran, and countries like Iran. Countries like China and Russia are not developed in every way. There is no democracy in these countries. Human rights are not respected. There is military development, but these countries are not economically or environmentally developed. So when these countries become superpowers, the path of development in the world is disrupted, and countries like Iran will be most affected.”