TEHRAN -- Iran summoned the Russian and British ambassadors on Thursday after a photograph was posted on the Russian embassy’s Twitter account recalling the 1943 Tehran Conference, when Iran was occupied by the Allied powers.
The picture, which outgoing foreign minister Muhammad Javad Zarif called “extremely inappropriate”, has drawn criticism in Iran, with many saying on Twitter that the aim appeared to be to remind them of a time when their country was under foreign occupation.
It showed the Russian envoy, Levan Dzhagaryan, and Britain’s ambassador, Simon Shercliff, sitting where U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt, British prime minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin sat together at the Russian embassy during the 1943 strategy meeting.
Foreign minister-designate Hussein Amirabdollahian said it “showed disregard for diplomatic etiquette and the national pride of the Iranian people”.
“During the meeting, the Russian ambassador stated that his intention to publish this photo was merely a reminder of Russia’s alliance with Britain against the Nazi army during World War Two,” Iran’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
“There was no anti-Iranian motive behind the photo,” the statement added.
While emphasizing friendly relations between Iran and Russia, an Iranian foreign ministry official made clear that publication of the photograph “was not acceptable”, the statement said.
The Russian embassy said it had no wish to cause offence.
“Taking into account the ambiguous reaction to our photo, we would like to note that it does not have any anti-Iranian context. We were not going to offend the feelings of the friendly Iranian people,” it tweeted.
“The only meaning that this photo has to pay tribute to the joint efforts of the allied states against Nazism during the Second World War. Iran is our friend and neighbor, and we will continue to strengthen relations based on mutual respect” the Russian embassy added.
The Tasnim news agency said the British envoy “regretted the misunderstanding” over the picture and said that “there was no bad intention behind it”.
Tensions between Iran and Britain have risen over an attack last month on a tanker in which a Briton died. Britain blamed Tehran, which denied involvement.
Meanwhile, the image of the so-called “Big Three” is infamous in Iran since it is reminiscent of the violation of the country’s national sovereignty by the three countries, two of which had exploited the then Pahlavi regime’s inefficacy and submissiveness to deploy troops to Iranian soil despite the fact that
Tehran had declared neutrality during World War Two.
The Pahlavi regime had neither been informed of the vital meeting on Iranian soil nor invited to it.
“Need I remind all that Aug. 2021 is neither Aug. 1941 nor Dec. 1943,” Zarif tweeted.
“The Iranian people have shown — including during the JCPOA talks — that their destiny can NEVER be subject to decisions in foreign embassies or by foreign powers,” Zarif added, using an acronym for the official name of the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Parliament speaker Muhammad-Baqer Qaibaf censured the meeting as “inappropriate and inconsistent with diplomatic protocols”.
“Both ambassadors must swiftly issue an official apology, otherwise firm diplomatic action will be necessary,” he said.
“In having his picture taken on the same chairs in front of the same venue, alongside his UK counterpart, then tweeting it out, the Russian Iran Ambassador is guilty of shockingly poor judgment,” Scotland-based journalist and political commentator John White wrote.
“At best the picture, the message it conveys, is highly insensitive, and at worst deeply insulting at a time when the Iranian people are suffering under the weight of unprecedented sanctions, including those imposed by the UK,” he wrote in article published by Press TV.
White pointed to the events leading up to the Tehran Conference: “The point is that the world back then was run on the basis of great-power chauvinism and that WWII, just like its WWI, was in the last analysis a war for empire and colonial possessions, with Iran one of many countries drawn into the war against its will, and occupied in violation of its sovereignty.”
“The Iran of today is unrecognizable compared to the Iran of yesterday. It has, since 1979, placed an unshakeable premium on its independence and sovereignty, refusing to bow to those who yearn for the days when the country was but a doormat in the eyes of imperialist countries led by the likes of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. Its stance when it comes to the ongoing negotiations taking place in Vienna over the JCPOA, and its resistance to U.S. hegemony and Israeli expansionism in the region overall, leaves no doubt of it,” he said.
“This is why it defies belief that a Russian ambassador would allow himself to be pictured with a British official like two colonial masters lording it over a subject people, particularly just after a new administration has taken office in Tehran.”
White touched on the Russian embassy’s response to the furor, saying “rather than issue such a convoluted response, perhaps it might have been simpler, and certainly better, to issue an apology and take the offending tweet down”.
“You just know that this incident and the ensuing fallout will be music to the ears of London. The UK political establishment has gone out of its way to downplay the role of the Soviet Union in crushing Nazi Germany in WWII, while enhancing its own role in that cause. The idea that a British official would agree to such a picture without an ulterior motive is simply not credible. Indeed, it’s more than likely that the re-staging of this image was done at the suggestion of Mr. Shercliff in the first place,” he wrote.