March 4, 2022
In its latest issue, the ultraconservative Iranian daily Kayhan wrote of Ukrainians’ fightback to the ongoing Russian invasion that the Ukrainian people knew less of resistance tactics than a “scarecrow” would.
Kayhan’s managing editor is appointed by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. The newspaper generally reflects – even magnifies – the sentiments of Iran’s most hardline political elite, even where these diverge from the reality. The paper’s Wednesday issue carried a story that declared: “When a country is attacked militarily, if its people can pretend to resist as much as a scarecrow would, they can defeat the enemy.
“But when a country loses its cities within just 48 hours, and the queue to flee the country is longer than the line to fight on the front, it means that the people of that country do not know how to resist, even as much as a scarecrow!”
Insulting and distorted as the piece by Kayhan was, it was part and parcel of a trend in Iranian state media that emerged shortly after the invasion began on February 24. After numerous statements by officials and IRGC-linked media parroting the Kremlin’s line, a direct intervention by Ali Khamenei on Tuesday left no doubt: “The US dragged Ukraine to where it is now,” the Supreme Leader said. “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.”
In a phone call to Putin on Thursday, February 24, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told his Russian counterpart that more countries seeking to join NATO posed a “serious threat” to regional security. “I hope what is happening will benefit peoples and the entire region,” he was quoted in state media as having said.
Kayhan‘s disparaging remarks were unfortunate at a time when much of the international community has been shocked by the fierce resistance and fortitude shown by the people of Ukraine, despite the ostensible odds, to an invasion by a superpower armed to the teeth. It came hours before 141 UN member states voted to deplore “in the strongest terms” Russia’s activities of Ukraine, pronouncing the invasion a violation of the UN charter. Despite the official support shown to the Kremlin, Iran was one of 35 countries to abstain.