After the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei declared that the Islamic Republic has had no participation in the war in Ukraine.
Khamenei’s remarks during his March 21 address marking Nowruz, the Persian New Year, suggest he fears of the consequences of Tehran’s involvement in the Ukraine conflict at a time when his misguided domestic and foreign policies have entangled the Islamic Republic.
During Khamenei’s three-decade rule, Tehran has not openly supported any armed conflict, but the Islamic Republic has praised Russia's military aggression against Ukraine as the "beginning of a new international order."
Islamic Republic officials said the conflict will mark the "decline of the Western governments' military and political superiority," and ridiculed Ukraine's alignment with the West and its comedian-turned-president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
During Putin's visit to Tehran in July 2022, Khamenei described the invasion of Ukraine as a preventive war, and it soon became clear that Russian forces in Ukraine were using Iranian-made suicide drones.
Zelenskiy was photographed with one of the downed drones and accused the Islamic Republic of cooperating with Russia in its military aggression.
Criticism within Iran over the Islamic Republic’s participation in war crimes being committed in Ukraine has been growing, especially after the eruption of nationwide protests in September.
Outside the country, Iranians held rallies to show support for Ukraine and to condemn the Islamic Republic's involvement in the war.
Initially, Iranian officials consistently denied arming Russia in its war.
But in the face of mounting evidence of the contrary, the government acknowledged in November that the country has supplied Russia with a “limited number of drones,” insisting that the transfer came before Moscow launched its war on Ukraine.
The European Union, the United States and other countries have issued several waves of sanctions against the Islamic Republic in recent months over its supply of drones to Russia.
Mismanagement, wrong political and legal evaluations, and Tehran's dependence on Russia's support at the UN Security Council led to the Islamic Republic’s involvement in the Ukraine war.
It is probably impossible to escape the consequences of this involvement.
The ICC accuses Putin and his commissioner for children's rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, of being responsible for the illegal deportation of children from Ukraine, which constitutes a war crime.
Contrary to what the Islamic Republic’s propaganda apparatus claims, the arrest warrants for Putin and Lvova-Belova are not symbolic.
The 123 countries that are parties to the ICC have the duty to detain them and hand them over to The Hague for trial.
The Islamic Republic is also accused of committing serious human rights violations in the brutal crackdown on more than six months protests that could amount to a “crime against humanity.”
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, said on March 20 that the scale and gravity of the crimes "points to the possible commission of international crimes, notably the crimes against humanity."
A UN independent international fact-finding mission set up by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council will address this issue.
Russia was suspended from the council following its invasion of Ukraine, and the Islamic Republic is likely to follow the same path.
The Islamic Republic is making efforts to protect itself from its support for Putin’s aggression against Ukraine, but the law does not consider "denial after confession" as valid.
After supporting Russia for a year, the Islamic Republic is unlikely to escape the trap Putin has laid and the path Tehran has followed.
The arrest warrant issued for Putin has scared the Islamic Republic’s leadership.