Photo: Joe Biden fist bumps Saudi dictator Mohammed bin Salman, who presides over a regime in which women effectively have no rights whatsoever. Credit: Saudi Press Agency
Since Sept. 16, protests have been taking place across Iran. Demonstrations began in response to the death of a 22-year-old woman named Mahsa Amini in police custody. She had been detained three days earlier for violating laws regulating women’s dress, which mandate wearing a hijab.
These protests have become the focus of a great deal of attention in the corporate media in the United States and from President Biden himself, who declared at the United Nations that “we stand with the brave citizens and the brave women of Iran.” The New York Times ran an article today hailing Biden’s “tougher approach toward Iran” compared to the Obama administration and even praised Trump, arguing “it will be fair to revisit Trump’s Iran legacy” if the current situation results in regime change.
The Biden administration has also taken direct steps to intervene. Modifications were made to the suffocating U.S. sanctions regime the country is subjected to in order to allow technology companies to help protesters circumvent communications outages. It has also given its support to Elon Musk’s offer to make his company’s “starlink” internet service available in the country. This is reminiscent of when Twitter delayed scheduled maintenance and remained operational at the request of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a previous round of protests in 2009.
Women in Iran are subjected to reactionary laws governing their appearance. This sexist legal code is part of the system of government that is in place in Iran.
One needs only to look next door at Saudi Arabia to see the hypocrisy dripping from the U.S. government’s proclamations in support of women’s rights in Iran. Under Saudi Arabia’s legal code, women can be executed by stoning for committing adultery or beheaded for practicing witchcraft. Women have virtually no rights whatsoever, and where they can travel or work is controlled by male “guardians” recognized by authorities.
And yet Saudi Arabia is showered in weapons from the United States and given full diplomatic backing. Just last year, the Biden administration gave the green light to a $500 million package of military assistance to the Saudi regime. Saudi Arabia receives 80 percent of its arms from the United States, and the country is the United States’ largest foreign military sales customer. In July, Biden rewarded Saudi tyrant Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman with a personal visit.
While it is difficult to discern exactly what the current state of the demonstrations are, it is clear that the upheaval has been intense. Forty-one people have died in the protests, according to official reports, including five members of the security forces.
This too is another area where Biden is applying a clear double standard. When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the right to abortion — something that could potentially lead to the deaths of thousands of women — Biden stated, “First, I call on everyone, no matter how deeply they care about this decision, to keep all protests peaceful. Peaceful, peaceful, peaceful. No intimidation. Violence is never acceptable.”
Anti-government protests may continue. Authorities have pledged to conduct an inquiry, with Iran’s president telling Amini’s family that the government would “steadfastly investigate” her death. Counter-mobilizations of government supporters have also taken place. But no matter what course events take in Iran, it is certain that the U.S. government will look for any opportunity to take advantage of the situation to achieve its long-standing goal of controlling the country.