After Biden fails to mention Iran during SOTU, lawmakers push measure supporting Iranian protesters
President Joe Biden didn’t reference Iran once in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, prompting outcry from analysts who warned that the Iranian regime is too great a threat not to mention.
“To omit any reference to the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism that’s advancing its nuclear program and exporting drones to the Russians is a gross oversight” by the White House, said Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Iran officially revealed the first-of-its-kind underground airbase dubbed “Eagle 44,” capable of housing fighter jets and long-range cruise missiles, several hours before Biden’s speech. The next day, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, displayed an apparent ballistic missile with the words “Death to Israel” emblazoned in Hebrew down the side.
Still, Biden didn’t mention Iran at all despite uttering 9,191 words, a record for a State of the Union address, over an hour and 13 minutes.
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“President Biden’s State of the Union address was very weak on national security,” said Fred Fleitz, a former CIA analyst who also served as a senior staffer on the National Security Council. “There was no reference to Iran despite a surge in its nuclear program and selling weapons to Russia that it is using to attack Ukraine.”
Other analysts expressed disappointment with Biden.
“I was disappointed the president did not mention Iran,” said Jason Brodsky, policy director of United Against Nuclear Iran. “It’s important to recognize that the threats the U.S. face come not only from Russia and China. Let’s remember: Iran’s regime has sponsored kidnapping and assassination attempts against U.S. citizens on American soil.”
“I think it was also a missed opportunity to express very clearly the bipartisan U.S. support for the Iranian people,” he continued. “That signal and rhetorical support, which should be consistent from the highest levels of the U.S. government, is critical. A presidential bully pulpit matters.”
That bipartisanship was on full display Wednesday when several lawmakers introduced a bipartisan resolution, with 166 cosponsors, in support of Iranians protesting against the regime and calling for Iran’s leaders to be held accountable for human rights violations.
“With this resolution, the elected representatives of the American people add their voices to the growing chorus for liberty and justice in Iran,” Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., said at a press conference introducing the measure. “Our parties are divided on many issues but not on this one.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, echoed that point at the conference.
“We have no disagreement for the question and the answer: When should Iran be free? And the answer is now,” said Lee.
The resolution recognizes that the Iranian people, who’ve been engaged in nationwide anti-government street protests for months, “are rejecting monarchic dictatorship and religious tyranny” by “legitimately defending their rights for freedom against repression” in order to establish a “democratic, secular, and nonnuclear Republic of Iran.” The measure also calls on the U.S. to work with its allies to hold the Iranian regime accountable for various “malign activities,” including human rights abuses.
Anti-government protests erupted across Iran in September when a young woman died in the custody of Iran’s so-called morality police, which had allegedly detained her for wearing a hijab, an Islamic head covering that’s mandatory for women in Iran, in an “improper” way.
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Since then, the protests have grown in scope and intensity, reaching all of Iran’s 31 provinces and nearly 300 cities, according to local reports and the organized Iranian resistance movement. Chants calling for the regime’s overthrow have been common at protests.
Lawmakers introduced the resolution three days before the anniversary of the 1979 Iranian revolution, when protesters overthrew the last shah, or king, of Iran. The country soon thereafter became governed by an Islamist theocracy, which remains in power today.
“This unprecedented bipartisan resolution should be a compass for Washington to adopt the right policy on Iran,” said Majid Sadeghpour, political director of the Organization of Iranian-American Communities. “It denounces the shah’s ruthless and corrupt dictatorship and the current ruling religious tyranny. It supports the call for a secular, non-nuclear Iranian republic.”
Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which seeks to overthrow the regime and has influence in Washington, also spoke at Wednesday’s press conference, expressing hope for the success of the current protest movement.
“I am confident that this revolution will succeed because it is led by those who are willing to pay the price,” she said.
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Experts criticized Biden’s response to the protest after they erupted, arguing that he should do more both in terms of words and actions to back the Iranian people. Over time, many of these critics saw progress from the Biden administration as officials began speaking out more against the regime and in support of the demonstrators.
“While the Biden administration has embraced the bully pulpit a bit more regarding the protests, it shied away from doing so at the State of the Union,” said Taleblu. “In so doing, Biden missed a chance to align the country’s head and heart on Middle East policy. It seems the administration is comfortable with the status quo but fails to understand the status quo is both dangerous and unsustainable.”
He added that while it’s “inspiring” to see Congress pass “important” bipartisan resolutions, “actions, not words” will be the true test of how the U.S. government stands with the Iranian people.
It’s unclear why Biden didn’t mention Iran during his speech. The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment for this story.
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Experts explained to G3 Box News Digital that Biden and his top officials need to speak out more on Iran, arguing that a lack of clarity on U.S. policy creates ambiguity, which can be dangerous.
“I hate to say it, but the evidence shows President Biden just doesn’t care about the plight of the Iranian people,” said Gabriel Noronha, a former State Department special adviser on Iran and fellow with the Jewish Institute for National Security of America. “Unlike President Trump and Obama, he hasn’t given a single speech about Iran and has barely mentioned the country in the last two years.”