“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.”

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

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.

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