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Biden claims 'We're gonna free Iran,' undoing weeks of calculated messaging around Iranian protests

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Amid a discussion about how his administration might improve care for veterans, particularly those who recently fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Joe Biden told Democrat supporters at a rally on Thursday that "we're gonna free Iran."

Biden's comment reportedly negates weeks of work by U.S. officials to carefully counter the Iranian regime's narrative that America is steering the Persian protests.

Comment and context

Biden went to a Democrat rally in San Diego to promote Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.), who is at risk of losing his seat to Republican challenger Brian Maryott.

Outside the event was an Iranian freedom protest. There was some spillover of the protesters' sentiment into the rally, as several audience members held up "free Iran" signs.

The Hill reported that Biden was talking about veterans' health care and expanding benefits for millions of military members exposed to toxins while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Audience members' tangential concern — not with American veterans' health, but with the Iranian regime's persecution of women, anti-government protesters, and others — captured the president's attention.

Biden said, "Don't worry. We're gonna free Iran. They're gonna free themselves pretty soon."

Freeing Iran

It was not immediately clear what Biden meant.

Although one NSC spokesman claimed Biden had just been reiterating his support for the Iranian protests, Bloomberg reported that Biden's remarks "undercut the carefully constructed US approach to the protests," which sought to "avoid the impression that the US is somehow steering them, as Iran's leaders have claimed."

Although Biden's remarks may soon be walked back by the White House as another "gaffe," the we/they framing of the hypothetical Iranian liberation prompted the Iranian regime to recall previous U.S.-backed we/they interventions.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi responded to Biden's remarks saying, "Mr. President, Iran was freed 43 years ago. ... Iran is determined not to fall into your captivity and will never become your cash cow."

Raisi was referencing the 1979 Iranian revolution, when the last shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was overthrown. Pahlavi had been installed as the result of an internationally coordinated coup.

On Aug. 19, 2013, the CIA formally admitted that it had helped the British overthrow Iran's democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mosadegh, in 1953. NPR reported that Mosadegh had indicated that, after decades of British control over the country's oil, he would break off negotiations and deny British involvement.

Sanctions, exclusions, and bombs

Biden has recently faced pressure to ensure that Iran doesn't acquire nuclear bombs and to hold Raisi's regime accountable for "ruthlessly gunning down its own citizens in the streets."

Presently, the Biden administration has sought to use diplomatic pressure and sanctions, despite the same not having worked on Russia in recent months.

CNN reported that the U.S. aims to remove Iran from the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women in the wake of the death of a 22-year-old woman held captive by Iran's "morality police."

On Oct. 26, the U.S. imposed new sanctions against Iranian officials in light of the regime's nationwide crackdown on protesters.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that the U.S. "is committed to supporting the Iranian people and ensuring that those responsible for the brutal crackdown on the ongoing nationwide protests in Iran are held accountable."

Last week, the Pentagon revealed in its new "National Defense Strategy" that the U.S. would dispense with Biden's pledge only to use nuclear warheads to deter or respond to a nuclear attack. Now, non-nuclear targets are fair game for nuclear strikes.

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