Tehran: There is an outrage over the Russian and British ambassadors’ recreation of an iconic World War II photo taken during the Soviet-British occupation of Iran in 1943.
Russia’s Embassy in Tehran posted a photo Wednesday at the site of the Tehran conference where three allied leaders Soviet President Josef Stalin, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met to discuss military strategies against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
“Ambassador Levan Dzhagaryan’s meeting with the new head of the British diplomatic mission in Iran Simon Shercliff on the historical stair where the 1943 Tehran conference was held,” the photo caption said.
A tweet by the Russian embassy posting the picture received thousands of angry comments and quote tweets.
Users responding to the photo on Twitter called it an “insult,” an echo of “colonialism” and a sign of plans for “regime change” in Iran.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is soon expected to be replaced by conservative diplomat Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, called the picture “extremely inappropriate” in a tweet on Wednesday.
Zarif, tweeted: “I saw an extremely inappropriate photo today. Need I remind all that August 2021 is neither August 1941 nor December 1943. The Iranian people have shown – including during the talks on the nuclear deal that their destiny can never be subject to decisions in foreign embassies or by foreign powers.”
I saw an extremely inappropriate picture today.
Need I remind all that Aug. 2021 is neither Aug. 1941 nor Dec. 1943.
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. pic.twitter.com/0syILRec5q
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) August 11, 2021
Abdollahian and parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf also said the envoys must be held accountable.
Russian embassy in Tehran insisted Thursday that the photograph was not “anti-Iranian,” but its reassurance was not enough to stop Iran’s foreign ministry announcing it had summoned the Russian ambassador. State television quoted “an informed source” claiming that the British envoy had also been asked to present “further explanations regarding the photo.”
The ambassadors were summoned to the foreign ministry on Thursday and said they meant no offence.
The Russian Embassy said the photo op did not carry “any anti-Iranian context.”
“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. Iran is our friend and neighbor, and we will continue to strengthen relations based on mutual respect”
1/2 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.
— Russian Embassy, IRI (@RusEmbIran) August 12, 2021
British Ambassador Shercliff retweeted the message.
The Soviet Union and Britain invaded neutral Iran in 1941 to secure key supply routes amid the Nazi advance in the Caucasus. Soviet, British and U.S. troops withdrew from Iran in 1946.
However, the image of the so-called “Big Three” is infamous to the Iranian people since it is reminiscent of the violation of their 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 in the war.
Islamic Republic, founded after an Islamic Revolution that overthrew the US backed Pahlavi regime, harbours a deep distrust of the West, especially the US and the UK.
The US seat at the meeting on Wednesday was empty because shortly after the revolution, the country’s embassy in Iran was shut down.
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