The Russian President made a rare trip abroad earlier this week, as he tried to shore up support for his war in Ukraine. Putin met with Iran’s Supreme leader and Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at a summit held in Tehran on Tuesday. The leaders discussed the civil war in Syria, as well as plans to unblock grain shipments from Ukraine.
US defence officials also believe the Russian despot was seeking to purchase Iranian combat drones to help boost his army’s fire power in Ukraine.
In a press conference following the meeting, Ali Khamenei said Tehran and Moscow should strengthen their ties.
Despite the words of support, some eagle-eyed observers believed they spotted a deliberate snub by Iran’s Supreme Leader towards his Russian visitor.
Photographs of the two leaders greeting each other appeared to show Putin shaking the Ayatollah’s left hand.
Social media user @powernashary, a regular commentator on the Ukraine war, noted: “The left hand is considered “dirty” in Islam.
“Everything “clean” is done with the right hand, including handshakes.
“The left hand is often used there [with water] instead of toilet paper. Respect of the last level.”
The journalist and political commentator Ivan Yakovina was also quick to point out the apparent lack of respect dished out to Putin by the Iranian leader.
He told the Freedom channel: “And the great Ayatollah Ali Khamenei doesn’t respect Putin either.
“He greeted Putin with his left hand, which means… It is customary in Islam to do all sorts of unclean things with the left hand, for example, to blow your nose, to do everything bad.
“Here he greeted Putin with his left hand.”
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The CIA Director William Burns said Moscow’s interest in purchasing Iranian combat drones was a reflection of “the deficiencies of Russia’s defence industry today”.
In a speech on Wednesday at the Aspen Security Forum, he noted: “Russians and Iranians need each other right now.
“Both heavily sanctioned countries, both looking to break out of political isolation as well.”
John Brennan, a researcher at the US Institute of Peace, claimed that Putin’s approach to Iran for military aid smacked of “desperation”.
He told CNBC News: “I think the Russians would spin the meeting as a demonstration that they’re not actually isolated, they’re still a major player in the Middle East.
“But I do think it shows a bit of desperation that the Russians are having to go to the Iranians for military support.”