On Sept. 16, mass protests rocked Iran in response to the tragic death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman, at the hands of the Iranian government. Just a few days later, President Biden asserted his support for the anti-government protesters in a speech to the UN. And, on Monday, Biden decried the Iranian government’s subsequent crackdown, promising “further costs on the perpetrators of violence.”

This forceful and swift show of support from the US marks a significant break with the Obama administration, which faced a tide of Iranian protests back in 2009. At the time, many Republicans criticized Obama for his initial cautiousness on the issue. Sensitive to the history of US meddling in Iranian affairs, the late administration expressed concern that any affirmation of the Iranian protesters would taint their image. Biden’s administration now says that concern was misplaced.

Beyond his proclamations in the General Assembly, the president supported extending critical resources straight to the protesters. Biden announced on Monday that the US “is making it easier for Iranians to access the [i]nternet, including through facilitating greater access to secure, outside platforms and services.”

For now, these efforts take the form of Starlink, a SpaceX satellite constellation system serving to provide global internet access. Elon Musk proposed the idea, which was put into effect Sept. 23, shortly after the US relaxed sanctions on Iran to allow the technology to flow into that country. This practice is not new — in fact, the US used Starlink to help reconnect Ukraine after Russia destroyed a key Ukrainian satellite system.

Doubts about Starlink abound, however. Some have pointed out that one must have a “special dish” (essentially a satellite dish) to use Starlink. These dishes are currently unavailable to the majority of Iranians and thus would have to be smuggled in. Given the watchful eye of the government, smuggling at a scale large enough to have any impact would be unlikely. Since Ukraine was already allied with the US, the latter had no problem getting the necessary supplies in. It remains to be seen whether Starlink can help the Iranian protesters as it did with Ukraine.

The present tension between the US and Iran exists against the backdrop of a long and fraught relationship between the two countries. In 1953, the CIA (along with British intelligence) staged a coup against the democratically-elected Iranian Prime Minister Mossadeq. Events in subsequent decades only worsened the relationship between the US and Iran. The 1978 Iranian Revolution ideologically isolated Iran from the West, and the hostage crisis in the following year cemented an antagonistic relationship between the countries.

More recently, the Iran nuclear deal in 2015 revitalized the prospect of a working relationship, with most sanctions on Iran subsequently lifted. However, that prospect was smashed under the Trump administration, which withdrew from that deal, re-imposed sanctions, and appeared perilously close to open conflict with Iran after its assassination of general Qasem Soleimani in early 2020.

In addition to their political and cultural differences, undertones of US imperialism surface whenever the two countries cross, engendering a mutual sense of distrust. Indeed, it is unclear at this point whether positive relations between the US and Iran can be fully restored. For now, these two nations will merely coexist — which may, in turn, mean the present Iranian protesters will largely be left to fend for themselves.

Source » irinsider