Motahari, who ran unsuccessfully as a candidate in last year’s presidential election, told Ensaf News in an interview published Wednesday: “My feeling is that Russia has infiltrated our government. Unfortunately, within the ruling establishment, we have Russophiles who have forgotten the ‘Neither East, nor West’ policy.”
Neither East, nor West was Iran’s foreign policy motto for years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. In recent years, though, it has been muddied by the so-called “Look East” strategy avidly promoted by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who told Vladimir Putin in 2007, despite all evidence to the contrary: “The image of the Russian people in our minds is a clear, good image.”
In his interview, Motahari also accused Moscow of giving Israel “a free hand” in attacking forces affiliated with Iran in Syria, which yesterday led to the deaths of two IRGC colonels. He further criticized delays in imports of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine to Iran, saying the holdup on the Russian side had “harmed our people”.
In an echo of comments by Faezeh Hashemi last month, Motahari added that Tehran was “in the arms” of both Russia and China, and lamented that the “suffocating” internal security systems of both countries had become “the model” for the Islamic Republic too.
“Even in textbooks,” Motahari said, “they have removed some historical facts that would have been detrimental to [the image of] Russia. This is a distortion of history, and a deceit of the people.”
Motahari also expressed hope that a newly-sanctioned Russia would not stand in the way of the JCPOA, or something similar to it, being re-signed by all parties. “Under the conditions the war in Ukraine has created,” he said, “I believe we must make big investments in our own oil and gas industries, and be thinking about supplying Europe with gas. As a result of the long sanctions, unfortunately we’re behind Qatar on this, and we must quickly get Iran to the point it deserves. In exporting gas to Europe, we must pay no heed to Russia.”
Motahari has made several controversialist, racist and sexist statements in the past. But in this instance, his views go directly against the grain within the Islamic Republic. Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, officials from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei down have near-uniformly backed Putin, and repeated Putin’s excuses for the war.
On the day the onslaught began, Motahari strongly condemned the way Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) was covering the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “IRIB is reporting the news like a Russian colony,” he tweeted.