In his first public reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei repeated Vladimir Putin’s public excuses and blamed the US and “the West” for the war.
In a televised speech on Tuesday, March 1, Khamenei called the Biden administration a “mafia regime”. He proclaimed: “All sorts of mafias control their country and bring presidents into power. They create crises in the world to maximize their profits.”
The Supreme Leader claimed that Iran supports ending the war in Ukraine. He qualified, however, adding: “But the solution to any crisis is only possible if the root cause is identified. The root of the crisis in Ukraine is US policies that create crisis. Ukraine is a victim of these policies.”
While barely commenting on Russia, Khamenei blamed the US for every facet of the ongoing invasion. “The US dragged Ukraine to where it is now,” he repeated. “By interfering in Ukraine’s internal affairs, creating color revolutions, toppling one government and putting another in power, the US dragged Ukraine into this situation.
“The US is a manifestation of modern ignorance, discrimination, oppression and generating crises in the world today. Basically, the US regime invents crises, lives off crises and feeds on various crises in the world. Ukraine is another victim of this policy.”
In his assessment of the situation, Khamenei did not spare Ukrainian citizens either. “If the people of Ukraine had got involved, the Ukrainian government wouldn’t be in this situation. The people didn’t get involved because they didn’t approve of the government.”
Khamenei, of course, ignored the fact that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was elected in with more than 70 percent of the vote in an open, democratic election in 2019. According to the latest polls, his favorability among Ukrainians now stands at around 90 percent.
Instead, Khamenei repeated the assertions of other Iranian hardliners, insisting that the invasion ought to teach the world a lesson. “Governments that rely on the US and Europe should know their support is a mirage, and not real,” he said. “Today’s Ukraine is yesterday’s Afghanistan. Both countries’ presidents said they relied on US and Western governments but were left alone.”
A scramble by Islamic Republic insiders to be on Putin’s good side started within 24 hours of Russian boots entering Ukrainian sovereign territory. Shortly afterward, several high-profile officials sought to publicly justify Putin’s aggression, mostly recycling lines used by the Kremlin (though notably omitting to cite the “Nazis” accusation).
In a telephone call to Putin on Thursday, February 24, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told the Russian premier that more countries seeking to join NATO posed a "serious threat" to regional security. "NATO's expansion eastward,” he claimed, “creates tension and is a serious threat to the stability and security of independent states in various areas. I hope what is happening will benefit peoples and the entire region.”