The Biden administration plans to continue nuclear negotiations with Iran despite the nation’s crackdown on protesters who have demonstrated in recent days following the death of a woman in police custody.
The woman, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, died after being arrested in Tehran, Iran, by morality police, who accused her of breaking the country’s strict law requiring women to fully cover their hair with a headscarf. Amini, who was reportedly beaten after her arrest, died in hospital after spending three days in a coma. Iranian authorities claim she suffered “sudden heart failure,” which has been rejected by her family.
Videos on social media in recent days have shown protests throughout the country, including images of women burning headscarves and clashes between demonstrators and police. In a report on Friday, The Washington Post verified that in one video, Iran’s security forces opened fire on protesters.
Citing Iranian-state television, Reuters reported on Sunday that the death toll from the protests has reached 41.
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi vowed on Saturday to “deal decisively with those who oppose the country’s security and tranquillity,” according to Iranian state media. Raisi reportedly “stressed the necessity to distinguish between protest and disturbing public order and security,” describing the ongoing demonstrations as “a riot.”
Meanwhile, U.S. and Iranian officials have been in talks to revive the nuclear pact known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was first struck in 2015, but was abandoned during former President Donald Trump‘s administration. The deal lifted international sanctions on Iran in exchange for restrictions on the country’s nuclear program.
In an interview on CBS‘ Face the Nation on Sunday, host Margaret Brennan asked White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan about the protests in Iran and if the situation is “making you 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 said, who added that the U.S. has taken steps to “sanction” the morality police by making it easier for Iranians to access the internet and 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 [and] the brave women of Iran,” Sullivan said.
“I was asking you about the offer to lift sanctions off of Iran in regard to its nuclear program, because that would allow for the regime to have a financial lifeline,” Brennan then said.
“I think it’s important for everyone to understand that at the height of the Cold War, as Ronald Reagan was calling the Soviet Union ‘the evil empire’…he was also negotiating an arms control with Russia. So that is what we’re talking about here,” Sullivan responded.
He continued: “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.”
Newsweek has reached out to the White House for comment.
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