For an administration obsessed with the impact of climate change and human rights, very little emerged from the White House this past weekend in response to Iran’s crackdown on protests to water shortages. Perhaps Biden realized he has more than enough to occupy his administration with growing inflation here at home. Whether or not Biden’s foreign policy moves beyond mild condemnation from his State Department remains to be seen, however, as the Biden administration prepares to make another stab at reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action this week in Vienna.
Since November 9, farmers have engaged in protests against the Iranian government for the severe water shortages in the nation’s agricultural region. According to coverage by the New York Times, roughly 97% of the country faces water scarcity with government mismanagement largely to blame and recent drought conditions worsening the crisis. The central Iranian city of Isfahan served as the origin for protests earlier this month, as farmers gathered to demand that the government restore previously diverted water flows to the region for essential irrigation.
As protests spread from Isfahan, security forces enacted violent suppression last week, with images and videos emerging that showed the use of batons and tear gas on crowds that included women and children. The government has additionally cut off Internet services in some parts of the country in an effort to prevent further organized protests and sharing of images.
The U.S. government’s response consisted of a mild rebuke of Iran’s crackdown on its people, issuing a statement from the State Department on Sunday that expressed its “support” of the “rights of Iranians to peacefully assemble and express themselves, without fear of violence and detention by security forces.” State Department spokesperson Ned Price convincingly tweeted, “Deeply concerned about the violent crackdown against peaceful protestors in Isfahan.”
Meanwhile, the Biden administration prepares for talks with Iran this week, using European diplomats as intermediaries. The United States seeks to lure the regime back into the 2015 nuclear deal that Trump withdrew from due to Iran’s violations of the pact. Iran likely holds the upper hand in these talks, as Biden will have to first concede to the lifting of sanctions and gain assurance that the United States will not walk away again. Despite all its talk on climate change and the “rights” of Iranians to protest peacefully without fear of repercussion, Biden remains unlikely to do anything that might jeopardize the revival of the JCPOA.