Blinken Expresses Support For Protesters In Iran
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visiting Kuwait on Thursday addressed for the first time the protests in Iran that have been occurring since July 15. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Blinken noted that the protests which started outside Tehran—in Khuzestan Province—have spread throughout the country and reached Tehran. He said they reflect “people’s deep frustration with the failure of government to meet their basic needs, including water, mismanagement of the economy.”
Blinken also recognized that the protests have been about “people expressing their larger aspirations for freedom and for a government that respects them and respects their rights. And, of course, we stand with the people of Iran in the desire to have their voices heard.” The secretary strongly urged the government “not to use violence and repression to silence those voices.”
However, security forces have used live ammunition on protesters and internet outages have been reported, which thwart the protesters’ abilities to communicate for days. At least eight people have been killed in the unrest.
These new comments come amid a stalemate in the nuclear negotiations and reflect a more assertive US posture in recent days on Iran. Last week, the Biden administration only referred to the protests when asked about them during press conferences. But this week, the US State Department released its first formal statement on the protests on Wednesday, alongside Secretary Blinken’s expression of support today in interviews in Kuwait.
The secretary also addressed the status of the nuclear negotiations with Iran. In a separate interview with Sky News Arabia, he said “we believe that it’s in our interest and Iran’s interest to come back into compliance with the nuclear agreement. But that really depends on Iran making the decision to do so. It’s not yet made that decision. Meanwhile, it continues to advance its nuclear program in very dangerous ways, and at some point those advances will be such that returning to compliance with the nuclear agreement won’t solve the problem. So that’s why I say this can’t go on indefinitely.”
Secretary Blinken also expressed support for using the nuclear deal “as a foundation for engaging Iran on” non-nuclear issues “where its actions are of real concern to us and to partners in the region.” This likely refers to discussions over Iran’s missile and drone programs, as well as its support for militants in the region. Earlier in the day, The Wall Street Journal reported the administration was preparing a sanctions campaign, targeting the regime’s missile and drone programs, particularly their procurement networks.
Much of the delay in the nuclear talks is attributed to the presidential transition taking place in Tehran, where Ebrahim Raisi will be sworn in as president on August 5. He is expected to name a new foreign policy team in the coming days. Particular attention will be focused on his selections for foreign minister and secretary of the Supreme National Security Council.