As US weighs in on Iran protests, critics highlight American culpability for economic crisis

Negar Mortazavi
AFP via Getty

As deadly anti-government protests continue across Iran, Washington has weighed in on the crisis that was ignited by a sudden hike in fuel prices – but come under criticism for the US' part in contributing to the economic crisis.

Although Donald Trump himself has not yet reacted to the events on Twitter, some American officials have commented on the demonstrations.

The White House issued a statement saying that the United States supports the Iranian people and condemns the government.

And Secretary of State Michael Pompeo also issued messages of support for Iranian protesters and condemned any acts of violence by authorities in the Islamic Republic.

But critics say the Trump administration's message of support for the people of Iran is not genuine as the United States is partially responsible for the economic crisis they are facing.

US sanctions, combined with the Iranian government’s high levels of corruption and mismanagement, have played a key role in Iran’s economic downfall.

Assal Rad, a research fellow at the National Iranian American Council, said that the policies of the Trump administration have undercut Iranian hopes.

“The Trump administration could end its collective punishment by giving Iranians the economic relief they were promised under the JCPOA, lift sanctions and allow Iran to sell its oil. Forcing the Iranian government to return to full compliance and out of the isolationism that prevents Iranian people from being part of the international community,” Ms Rad told The Independent.

US financial and banking sanctions against Iran have impacted the import of specialised Western-made drugs into the country, contributing to a shortage of life-saving medicine for patients with special and rare diseases.

Human rights experts have been warning about the negative consequences of US economic sanctions on the lives of ordinary Iranians.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa Director at Human Rights Watch said that if Mike Pompeo really wants to help the people of Iran, he can move to end their collective punishment through sanctions that are strangling their health and economy.

"Iranians are doing what citizens around the Middle East are doing: taking their demands for effective governance to the streets," Ms Whitson told The Independent.

"The last thing they need is for the US State Department to undermine their protests by manipulating their grievances for political potshots."

The Trump administration has also been criticised for holding a double standard when it comes to authoritarian governments that are considered US allies, supporting protests only when they seem in line with US foreign policy, but not protests against authoritarian rulers with close ties to America.

"Trump and Pompeo openly support oppressive dictators all over the world. No one seriously believes they care about the rights of Iranians,” a senior Democratic Congressional aide told The Independent, adding that “the statements of our government would have a lot more credibility if we were remotely consistent in our approach.”

In a week when Donald Trump has been embroiled with continuous impeachment hearings that dominated the media, the protests in Iran have not yet made it to the top headlines of most American outlets. But as government violence increases and the death toll rises – with Amnesty reporting on Tuesday that at least 100 protesters have been killed – more attention will be directed towards Iranians.

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