Thus far during his administration, President Joe Biden’s much-touted foreign policy expertise failed to deter a Russian invasion of Ukraine that has stood as one of many escalations in tension around the globe.
Days after Saudi Arabia revealed the White House may have sought a quid pro quo on oil production to stave off increased gasoline prices until after the election, Biden seemed set to ignite further turmoil in the Middle East as he waded into the topic of protests against the current regime in Iran.
Though he was on scene to discuss economic issues, with masses of Iranian protestors waiting to make the plight of women in the Islamic Republic of Iran heard, Biden began remarks at Irvine Valley Community College in Irvine, CA Friday with a prepared statement on the turmoil abroad. Looking to attendees in the audience wearing t-shirts that read “Free Iran,” he appeared to make a show of speaking off the cuff as he continued to read from pages at the podium.
“Before I begin–before my discussion today, I know–I look over there, and I see ‘Free Iran.’ And I want you to know we stand with the citizens and brave women of Iran, for real–for real–who, right now, are demonstrating to secure their very basic, fundamental rights,” he started.
“Women and men should have the right–the right to freedom of expression and assembly. And women–women all over the world are being persecuted in various ways,” the president continued. “But they should be able to wear, in God’s name, what they want to wear. No one should be telling them what to wear.”
It was then that Biden touched on the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini who was arrested for violating Iran’s modesty laws by wearing her hijab incorrectly in September before, as many believe, she was killed by authorities. The president hedged on that point as he said, “And Iran has to end the violence against its own citizens simply exercising their fundamental rights. And, you know, [Mahsa] Amini’s death was–I’ve been doing foreign policy a long, long time. It stunned me what it awakened in Iran. And it’s awakened something that I don’t think will be quieted in a long, long time.”
“And so, I want to thank you all for speaking out. I want to thank the Persian community here for being so vocal. And continue. It matters,” he added before a member of the audience shouted in reply, “Protect my freedom!”
“That’s one thing you don’t have to tell me,” Biden responded before attempting humor. “You met my wife? I married up. I was one of those guys that, my whole life I’ve been surrounded by women who’ve taken care of me, maybe they’re smarter than I am.”
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Wednesday, “Right now, our focus…is on the remarkable bravery and courage that the Iranian people are exhibiting through their peaceful demonstrations, through their exercise of their universal right to freedom of assembly and to freedom of expression.”
He added that the administration is focused on “shining a spotlight” on the protests in Iran and that the Iran nuclear deal had been put on the back burner as “The Iranians have made it very clear that this is not a deal that they have been prepared to make. A deal certainly does not appear imminent.”
Earlier in the year, the White House had to walk back remarks Biden made in Poland that suggested he was promoting the ousting of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a means to end the invasion of Ukraine. Now it appears as though the president may be attempting to promote the same in Iran in order to achieve the deal he wants through regime change.
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