A cluster of Iranian Friday Imams have used today’s sermons to hammer home the earlier comments of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Speaking in the heart of the Iranian capital, Ali Akbari, Tehran’s acting Friday Imam, repeated Khamenei’s description of the US as a “mafia regime”, proclaiming: “American adventurism is behind the recent events in Eastern Europe.”
Khamenei’s televised intervention on Wednesday was the object of grim fascination for observers online. The Supreme Leader somehow managed to speak about the war for eight minutes straight without once mentioning Russia.
On Friday, Akbari did the same, omitting to name either Putin or Russia in his address to the faithful. Instead, he repeated, “the main responsibility lies with the US, which has sacrificed Ukraine to its greed.”
He was not the only one. Yousef Tabatabaei-Nejad, Isfahan’s influential – and infamous – Friday Imam, said: “The US is the root of all these wars. Ukraine, a country that had all the instruments of war, even nuclear warheads, and was one of the advanced countries in terms of armaments, was disarmed by America, which that now wants to sell it arms again.”
Friday Imams are directly appointed by the Supreme Leader and tasked with disseminating his views in cities across Iran. These declarations and more were in lockstep with what Khamenei had said earlier in the week: that the US was “controlled by all sorts of mafias” that “create crises in the world to maximise their profits”.
The conspiracy theories did not end there, with Khamenei further accusing the US of “interfering in Ukraine’s affairs, creating color revolutions, toppling one government and putting another in power” in a bid to force through the current war. At the time of writing, close to a million Ukrainians had fled their countries as refugees – not running into the arms of Russia, but to Western “mafia” states.