After dispersing a heavily-policed Tehran vigil for the victims of last week’s horrific Paris terrorist attacks after just half an hour (the mourning continued on the web), it took Iran just a few days to move past condoling and consoling France and begin to assign blame for the attacks. As expected, it is the West which has been receiving much of the blame, with Iran’s judiciary chief demanding that Washington, as well as Europe, stand trial for the “creation of ISIS” (a demand the Iranian press has been more than happy to repeat and report), and with some hardliners blaming the attack on France and French policies. Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, meanwhile, told Fars News earlier this week that “sponsors of terrorism” – possibly a reference to Sunni Arab states – must “bear the responsibility” for the attacks.
However, other Iranian news outlets and leaders, as well as some Western news outlets, have chosen a different tack (possibly in an effort to “come in further from the diplomatic cold,” to cite The Independent), expressing solidarity with France and linking and even conflating Iran with the West and its struggle against ISIS terrorism. For example, in the wake of the Paris attacks, Iranian Intelligence Minister warned that “Tehran could be next” after Beirut and Paris, thus amalgamating Iran – a sponsor of terrorism in its own right – with victims of terrorist attacks.
Meanwhile, an interview conducted by Iran’s Tasnim News Agency with an “American political analyst” – in actual fact, US-based anarchist Keith Preston – stated that ISIS is “at war” with Western states, but also with Iran and Hezbollah. In keeping with his pro-Iran agenda, Preston did not care to differentiate between France, a Western democracy, and Hezbollah, a Lebanese sectarian terrorist group now active in Syria as well, under Iranian command; hopefully, the website’s English-speaking readers did. In a Western example, on The Huffington Post, former French presidential aide Jacques Attali urged the West to “join with Russia, Iran and Syria” – war criminal Bashar Assad, presumably? – to fight the “evil” of ISIS.
And yet, it’s hard to mistake Iran’s veneer of solidarity with victims of terrorism for true sympathy or shared values – particularly when it continues to silence those who mourn France’s tragedy, such as those brave few who tried to hold a vigil in Tehran on Saturday evening, or the artist who was “re-arrested” after daring to express genuine solidarity with the victims.