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November 4, 2022 2:34 pm
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Biden Says ‘We’re Going to Free Iran’ at Political Rally

avatar by Andrew Bernard

US President Joe Biden speaks about lowering costs for American families during his visit to Irvine Valley Community College, in Irvine, California, US, October 14, 2022. Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Joe Biden told attendees at a political rally Thursday evening that “we’re going to free Iran.”

“Don’t worry, we’re gonna free Iran. They’re gonna free themselves pretty soon,” he said. The President, who was campaigning in Oceanside, California, for Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA-47), was responding to attendees holding up cell phones with a “Free Iran” image.

Iran has experienced intense protests for more than a month following the death of Mahsa Amini, who died in custody after being sent to an “educational and orientation” class after being arrested by Iran’s Morality Police for wearing “unsuitable attire”. The Morality Police is tasked with enforcing Iran’s laws on women’s head coverings. 

The Biden administration in recent weeks has tried to increase pressure on Iran diplomatically and economically. On Thursday, the Treasury Department sanctioned an oil smuggling network that supported Lebanese Hezbollah and the Qods Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The Qods (meaning “Jerusalem”) Force is responsible for the IRGC’s foreign operations, including its support for Hezbollah and the Assad regime in Syria.

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Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday announced the United States was seeking to remove Iran from the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Iran was elected to a four-year term on the 45 member state commission in 2021 and took its seat in March.

Speaking to the press on Wednesday, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that it was not yet clear procedurally how Iran could be removed from the CSW. “We’re going to be working with other Member States on how we proceed on that. We haven’t determined that yet. But over the course of the coming days and weeks we will be doing that,” she said.

Critics of the administration say their response so far has not gone far enough. “The U.S. and its European allies should withdraw all sanctions relief offers made to Tehran and complete the snapback of UN sanctions at the Security Council,” Richard Goldberg of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former Trump administration official wrote on Tuesday.

“Snapback” refers to the provisions of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal – formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – that would allow the United States to restore full UN sanctions on Iran without the possibility of a UN Security Council veto.

Asked why the Biden administration was not pursuing snapback on Tuesday, State Department Spokesman Ned Price said their hands were tied by the Trump administration’s decision to exit the nuclear deal in 2018. “The United States is no longer a participant in the deal. This was one of the many great ironies of the last administration’s approach to the JCPOA,” he said.

The Trump administration attempted to initiate snapback at the UN in 2020 under the claim that the US was still a participant in the deal under the text of its accompanying UN Security Council resolution. That claim was withdrawn by the Biden administration in February 2021.

Asked if the US was pursuing regime regime change in Iran, Price said, “it is not up to the United States to determine any government, which government is in power in any particular country. That applies to Iran. This is a decision for the people of Iran.”

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