Amid Protests in Iran, National Security Advisor Defends Ongoing Push for Nuclear Deal

Patrick Goodenough | September 26, 2022 | 4:10am EDT
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Demonstrations in solidarity with Iranian women were held in a number of countries over the weekend. In Iraq’s Kurdish region, women hold up photos of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Iranian woman whose death in police custody sparked major anti-regime protests over the last ten days. (Photo by Safin Hamed / AFP via Getty Images)
Demonstrations in solidarity with Iranian women were held in a number of countries over the weekend. In Iraq’s Kurdish region, women hold up photos of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Iranian woman whose death in police custody sparked major anti-regime protests over the last ten days. (Photo by Safin Hamed / AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Sunday defended the administration’s continuing quest to revive the Iran nuclear deal, arguing that it was committed to doing so and at the same time stand up for the Iranian people protesting against the regime.

In an appearance on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” Sullivan was asked if the protests roiling Iran were making the administration “reassess the offer you put on the table to lift sanctions on Iran in regard to its nuclear program.”

“The fact that we are in negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program is in no way impacting our willingness and our vehemence in speaking out about what is happening on the streets of Iran,” Sullivan told host Margaret Brennan.

The death in custody ten days ago of a young Iranian woman sparked protests that have spread across the country. Mahsa Amini had been arrested by the “morality police” over a supposed infringement of hijab rules, but while many protestors are burning headscarves the slogans being chanted are targeting the clerical regime itself.

Sullivan noted that in his U.N. General Assembly speech last week, President Biden had voiced support for the protestors.

“We have in fact taken tangible steps to sanction those morality police who caused the death of Mahsa Amini,” he continued.

“We’ve taken steps to make it easier for Iranians to be able to get access to the Internet and access to communications technologies that will allow them to talk to one another and to talk to the world. So, from our perspective, we will do all that we can to support the brave people, the brave women of Iran.”

Brennan interjected, and steered Sullivan back to question of the nuclear deal. Biden is seeking to return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). President Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018, and a U.S. return would require Biden to lift the sanctions which Trump reimposed on the region when he exited the deal.

“I was asking you, though, about the offer to lift sanctions off of Iran in regard to its nuclear program,” Brennan said, “because that would allow for the regime to have a financial lifeline.”

Sullivan recalled that President Reagan had been willing to negotiate an arms control agreement with the Soviet Union even as he characterized it as an “evil empire.”

“So that’s – that is what we’re talking about here,” he said.

“We’re talking about diplomacy to prevent Iran from ever getting a nuclear weapon. If we can succeed in that effort – and we are determined to succeed in that effort – the world, America, and our allies will be safer. And that will not stop us in any way from pushing back and speaking out on Iran’s brutal repression of its citizens and its women. We can and will do both.”

“Okay,” said Brennan. “So I understand the offer is still on the table. Strategy hasn’t changed.”

Masih Alinejad, a New York-based exiled Iranian activist and journalist who was targeted last year in a foiled regime kidnap plot, took issue on Twitter with Sullivan’s stance.

She said that the “idea of conducting nuclear talks while offering ‘thoughts and prayers’ for the murder of Mahsa Amini is shameful.”

“On the streets of Tehran, everyone chants against the clerics,” Alinejad said. “The Regime is crumbling. Don’t save the dictators by signing a nuclear deal.”

As Sullivan mentioned in the interview, the administration last Thursday announced sanctions on the “morality police,” two of its senior officials, Iran’s intelligence minister Esmail Khatib, and four other men in senior posts in the police, army, and Basij militia.

“These individuals have been all involved in the suppression and killing of non-violent protestors,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement at the time. “The Iranian government needs to end its systemic persecution of women and allow peaceful protest.”

The following day, the U.S. Treasury Department issued an updated general license, authorizing tech companies to export services, software, and hardware to people in Iran, to help them access cloud services and provide better tools to enhance online security and privacy.

A senior administration official briefing on background said the move would not mean that the regime’s “repressive Internet censorship and surveillance tools” would no longer exist. But it would “make it that much easier for the Iranian people to confront some of those repressive tools.”

Blinken noted that the decision was taken against the backdrop of the regime having “cut off access to the Internet for most of its 80 million citizens to prevent them – and the world – from watching its violent crackdown on peaceful protestors.”


See also:
Biden Voices Support For Iranian Protesters As Republicans Criticize His Push for a Nuclear Deal (Sept. 22, 2022)

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