President Joe Biden recently appeared to depart from America’s stance of not seeking regime change in Iran when he said, “We will liberate Iran.”
His remarks to an audience in Los Angeles last Thursday were quickly criticized by John Kirby, the National Security Council’s strategic communications coordinator, who noted that Biden was “expressing, again, our solidarity” with the Iranian protesters and not outlining a new approach.
More than 300 deaths have been reported since protests began in Iran immediately following the September 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by the country’s morality police on September 13 for not wearing a hijab.
A new report from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) called on Biden to go further in strengthening his support for the Iranian people.
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“President Biden’s apparent support for regime change in Iran is welcome. But he may go further to support the Iranian people,” wrote Jvi Khan, a researcher at FDD.
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Kahn believes US reluctance to call for regime change lies in the Biden administration’s hopes of reviving Obama’s 2015 nuclear deal with the country.
“America and its allies have issued increasingly strong statements criticizing Iran’s human rights abuses while downplaying their previous emphasis on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” He wrote. Rejoining the deal would mean billions of dollars in sanctions relief for Iran.
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The White House has gradually shown support for the protesters. Two weeks after the protests, he finally issued a statement in early October: “For decades, the Iranian regime has denied its people fundamental freedoms and stifled the aspirations of successive generations through intimidation, coercion, and violence. The United States stands with Iranian women and all citizens of Iran who inspire the world with their bravery.”
The State Department was quicker to condemn the regime in Iran as Secretary of State Anthony Blinken released a statement on September 22 to announce sanctions on top Iranian officials and express support for the protesters.
Lisa Daftari, editor-in-chief of the Foreign Desk, hopes that Biden’s latest comments are indicative of a change to come in Washington.
“Thanks to nearly two months of courageous persistence on the part of Iranian protesters against the brutal regime in Iran, the Biden administration is beginning to show that it understands the gravity of this movement,” Daftari told Fox News Digital on Tuesday.
Daftari, who has been covering the protests since the beginning, continued: “Either emotionally, through the compelling and heartbreaking videos and footage of the street protests, or through significant political pressure on the White House and lawmakers to walk away from the JCPOA and to support the people of Iran rather than appease the mullahs, there seems to have been somewhat of a shift in Washington, DC.”
On October 26, the US Treasury Department announced a new round of sanctions “on Iranian officials who oversee organizations involved in violent repression and killings, including of children, as part of our commitment to hold all levels of the Iranian government accountable for repression. “
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“The White House should expressly withdraw its offer of sanctions relief to Iran,” Kan said. “Washington should not provide an economic lifeline to a regime that continues to slaughter its own people.”
At an event organized by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on October 13, US special envoy to Iran Robert Malley insisted that the possibility of rejoining the JCPOA did not affect US support for the protesters.
“I think people need to understand that our hands are not tied because of … this hope that someday there might be an agreement. … We are taking action. We don’t wait. We take action that we believe is consistent and necessary to advance our values and our national security interests.”
Malley faced backlash for a tweet he sent in October in which he said protesters were protesting “for their government to respect their dignity and their human rights.” Activists pointed out that the protests were actually about regime change and not a call to action for the current regime in Iran. Malley acknowledged that his tweet was incorrect, telling the Iran International news agency that his post was “poorly worded.”
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Kahn noted that the White House has not been clear enough about whether negotiations on the JCPOA will resume if the protests die down.
“To remove this ambiguity, President Biden should reject further talks and adopt a policy of maximum pressure on Iran,” he said.
After Biden’s remarks last week, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi reacted by saying: “A few hours ago, I was informed that the president of America deserted [said], “Soon we will liberate Iran.” We were liberated 43 years ago,” Raisi said in a televised address on Friday. “America aims to destroy our national unity and cohesion.”