Ukraine war exposes how much Tehran has tilted toward Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, right, meet in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Jan. 19, 2022. (AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, right, meet in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Jan. 19, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 19 April 2022

Ukraine war exposes how much Tehran has tilted toward Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, right, meet in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Jan. 19, 2022. (AP)
  • But among ordinary Iranians, there is a great deal of sympathy for pro-democracy Ukraine

TEHRAN: During its 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran embraced the protest cry of “neither East nor West,” rejecting both the US and the Soviet Union, then locked in the Cold War. The phrase to this day hangs over the doors of Iran’s Foreign Ministry.

Russia’s war on Ukraine, however, has exposed just how much Tehran has tilted toward Moscow in recent years as the collapse of its nuclear deal with world powers stoked decades-old, hard-line anger at America.
Members of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard train on Russian surface-to-air missile systems and aircraft. Hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi visited Russian President Vladimir Putin on one of his first trips abroad.
The war also exposes deeper fault lines even within Iran’s domestic politics. Among ordinary Iranians, there is a great deal of sympathy for Ukraine, a nation that staged a pro-democracy “Orange Revolution” similar to the “Green Revolution” that shook Iran more than a decade ago but was forcefully put down.
Iran’s historic enmity with Russia has combined with a wider feeling among some that backing Moscow betrays the Islamic Republic’s often-stated message that it stands against the world’s major powers.

BACKGROUND

• Revolutionary Guard train on Russian surface-to-air missile systems, aircraft.

• President Raisi visited Russian President Putin on one of his first trips abroad.

“We have to help oppressed people of Ukraine as we do support people of Palestine and Yemen simply because they are targeted by powers,” said Zohreh Ahmadi, a mother of two in downtown Tehran’s Sarcheshmeh neighborhood. “A bullying power is killing children and women in Ukraine.”
Iran’s state-controlled television network, whose English-language service Press TV describes itself as “the voice of the voiceless,” hews close to Russian talking points.
It used Moscow’s euphemistic term “special operation” to describe the war’s early days. Stories referencing the killings of civilians in Bucha by Russian forces include headlines falsely describing it as a “fake attack” or “provocation” on Press TV’s website.
Part of the Iranian government’s anger at Ukraine likely stems from the aftermath of the Guard’s 2020 shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner, which killed 176 people on board.
Tehran denied for days it shot down the plane before saying troops made a mistake after Iran fired ballistic missiles at US forces in Iraq in response to the killing of a top general.
Ukraine’s criticism of Iran grew more direct as time went on. That’s something Tehran’s Friday prayer leader, Kazem Sedighi, mentioned in a March sermon after Russia began its war on Ukraine.
“In the case of the airplane, Ukraine misbehaved against us and misused it in support of the US,” Sedighi said.
He also engaged in the “whataboutism” common in both Iranian and Russian state media — bringing up a separate topic to charge hypocrisy while deflecting the issue at hand.
“Wars claim the lives of innocent people in Yemen and Syria but there is huge propaganda over Ukraine and this is racism,” Sedighi said.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state, said his nation opposed “war and destruction” while blaming America for the conflict. He also brought up a longtime suspicion that he shares with Putin — that the US, rather than ordinary citizens, fuels what he described as the “color coups” that back democracy.
For Khamenei, it is the memory of the Green Movement protests that followed Iran’s disputed 2009 presidential election that directly challenged the theocracy he leads. Iran’s security services used violence and mass arrests to put down the demonstrations. But unrest has re-emerged in recent years over economic issues.
For Putin, it is Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution and its later Maidan protest movement that dislodged the Kremlin-leaning politician Viktor Yanukovych.
On the streets of Tehran recently, 17 people were willing to speak to an Associated Press journalist about the war, with others declining. Of them, 12 supported Ukraine, three reiterated Iran’s official stance and two supported Russia.
“I support Ukraine,” said Sajjad, a 26-year-old computer programmer. Like others, he spoke on condition he is identified only by his first name for fear of reprisals. “Russians are killing innocent people for nothing. Why should we remain silent?”
A retired Iranian captain, Mehrdad, called Russia’s reasons for the war “ridiculous” and similar to those used by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to launch a bloody eight-year war on Iran in the 1980s. Saddam at the time pointed to supporting Iran’s Arab minority in its oil-rich southwest as a justification for his invasion.
“It is stealing Saddam’s reasons for attacking Iran — possible threats by revolutionary Iran and supporting an ethnic group,” said Mehrdad, 75. “By this excuse, every country can attack others — even Russia.”
Ali Nemati, a 64-year-old retired teacher, praised Putin as “very brave” for challenging NATO, also a new preoccupation of Iran’s hard-line government under Raisi. However, Iran has been living quietly next to Turkey, which joined NATO in 1952.
“Iran should support Russia since it is alone in its fight against imperialism,” Nemati said.


Coptic pope offers condolences over church fire

Coptic pope offers condolences over church fire
Updated 20 sec ago

Coptic pope offers condolences over church fire

Coptic pope offers condolences over church fire
  • Blaze in Egyptian city of Giza killed 41 people, injured 16
  • ‘We thank God for all those who contributed to containing this crisis’

CAIRO: The Egyptian people showed their genuine nature with regard to Sunday’s fire in Abu Sefein Church that killed 41 people and injured 16 in the city of Giza, said the pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Pope Tawadros II thanked everyone who contributed to containing the blaze, and offered condolences to the family of a priest who died.

“He was a beloved priest until his last breath, and we console the people of the church, both adults and children, knowing that they are with Christ, and that is very much better,” the pope said.

“We thank God for all those who contributed to containing this crisis, including the concerned agencies, officials, the people and neighbors.”

He said he is scheduled to meet in the next few days with the victims’ families, adding that Christian and Muslim communities in various countries have offered their condolences. The Interior Ministry said an electrical fault had caused the fire.


Russian ship carrying ‘plundered’ Ukraine grain reaches Syria: embassy

Russian ship carrying ‘plundered’ Ukraine grain reaches Syria: embassy
Updated 12 min 42 sec ago

Russian ship carrying ‘plundered’ Ukraine grain reaches Syria: embassy

Russian ship carrying ‘plundered’ Ukraine grain reaches Syria: embassy
  • "According to our information, SV KONSTANTIN has docked in Syria," the embassy said
  • It said the ship was carrying "grains that were plundered and illegally transported by the Russian occupation authorities"

BEIRUT: A Russian cargo ship allegedly carrying stolen Ukrainian grain has reached Syria, Kyiv’s embassy in Beirut said Thursday, the latest in a series of contested shipments arriving in the war-torn country.
“According to our information, SV KONSTANTIN has docked in Syria,” the embassy said in a statement to AFP.
It said the ship was carrying “grains that were plundered and illegally transported by the Russian occupation authorities,” adding that the vessel was initially destined for the Lebanese port of Tripoli.
Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russian forces of ransacking its grain warehouses since they invaded the country in late February.
The embassy’s statement came as another cargo ship carrying the first shipment of grain allowed to leave Ukraine under a UN-backed deal reportedly unloaded its cargo at the Syrian port of Tartus, which is managed by a Russian firm.
The Sierra Leone-flagged vessel Razoni was expected to arrive in Lebanon, but the shipment’s five-month delay prompted the Lebanese buyer to cancel the deal once the ship was already at sea, Ukrainian officials had said.
According to Samir Madani, co-founder of oil shipping monitoring website TankerTrackers.com, the vessel docked in Tartus earlier this week.
Satellite imagery appeared to show that the ship — which was carrying 26,000 tons of corn — was unloading its cargo, Madani tweeted on Thursday.
Earlier this month, a Syrian-flagged ship was briefly seized by Lebanese authorities following similar claims by the Ukrainian embassy that it was laden with stolen cargo.
Lebanon later released the Laodicea vessel after investigations failed to prove it carried stolen goods, drawing criticism from Kyiv’s embassy.
The Laodicea started unloading its cargo at Tartus on August 8, according to Syrian state media.
Syria is a staunch ally of Russia, which intervened in the country’s civil war in 2015 to support President Bashar Assad’s government.
Moscow has lent Damascus very limited amounts of financial aid, but it has supplied Syria with wheat as a form of assistance.
The Syrian government relies on Moscow for the bulk of its wheat imports.


Egyptian, Canadian ministers discuss cooperation

Egyptian, Canadian ministers discuss cooperation
Updated 18 August 2022

Egyptian, Canadian ministers discuss cooperation

Egyptian, Canadian ministers discuss cooperation
  • Sajjan said: “I was impressed by the Egyptian vision of empowering women.”

CAIRO: Nevin Al-Kabbaj, Egypt’s minister of social solidarity, met with Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s minister of international development, to discuss cooperation in various fields.
Al-Kabbaj reviewed her ministry’s programs and activities, including those focusing on the rights of women and the disabled.
Sajjan said: “I was impressed by the Egyptian vision of empowering women.”
Al-Kabbaj expressed her appreciation for the efforts of the Canadian Embassy and the Canadian Development Agency to support development in Egypt and her ministry’s economic-empowerment projects.


Egypt sends aid to flood-hit Sudan

Egypt sends aid to flood-hit Sudan
Updated 18 August 2022

Egypt sends aid to flood-hit Sudan

Egypt sends aid to flood-hit Sudan
  • Tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed or damaged by torrential rains and floods, according to the Sudanese Civil Defense

CAIRO: Egypt has sent five military transport planes loaded with tons of relief aid to Sudan, where floods have killed 77 people and injured more than 30.

A spokesman for Egypt’s military said the aid comes “in the framework of Egypt’s support and solidarity with the brotherly Sudanese people.”

The aid includes tents, blankets, foodstuffs, medicines and medical supplies provided by the defense and health ministries.

Tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed or damaged by torrential rains and floods, according to the Sudanese Civil Defense.

Heavy rains usually fall in Sudan between May and September, a period when the country experiences flash floods that damage housing, infrastructure and crops.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that 38,000 people across Sudan have been affected by rains and floods since the start of this season.


Morocco: 13 migrants sent to prison for Spain crossing bid

Morocco: 13 migrants sent to prison for Spain crossing bid
Updated 18 August 2022

Morocco: 13 migrants sent to prison for Spain crossing bid

Morocco: 13 migrants sent to prison for Spain crossing bid
  • At least 23 died that day in what Moroccan authorities called a stampede
  • The Moroccan Association for Human Rights described the ruling as a “very harsh verdict”

RABAT, Morocco: A Moroccan court has sentenced 13 migrants, mostly from Sudan, to 2 and a half years in prison over a mass attempt to scale the border fence separating Morocco from the Spanish enclave of Melilla.
The decision Wednesday in the northern Moroccan city of Nador was the latest — and toughest — ruling handed down after dozens of people were arrested for the June 24 crossing attempt. At least 23 died that day in what Moroccan authorities called a stampede, as hundreds of people stormed the fence in a desperate bid to reach Europe.
The Moroccan Association for Human Rights described Wednesday’s ruling as a “very harsh verdict which shows how the judiciary was mobilized in the service of migration policies at the expense of asylum-seeking migrants.”
The 13 were convicted of various charges including illegal entry into Moroccan territory, violence against public officials, armed gathering, disobedience and joining a gang to organize and facilitate clandestine immigration abroad and arson. The court also ordered each of the defendants to pay 1,000 dirham (nearly $100).
Most of the 13 were from Sudan, and others were from Chad and South Sudan, according to activists who followed the case.
Last month, another Nador court sentenced 33 people to 11 months in prison over the June 24 crossing attempt. That court also sentenced 14 people earlier this month to eight months in prison in the same case.