A tough-worded message on Sunday by the Office of US Special Envoy for Iran on the 45th anniversary of the Islamic Republic signaled a change of tone towards Tehran.
Deputy US Special Envoy for Iran Abram Paley released a video message stating that “the Islamic Republic has brought only violence and corruption at home and abroad.”
“Forty-five years ago today, the revolution in Iran led to the establishment of a regime based on fear, violence and oppression,” Paley said, as the Islamic Republic holds nationwide government-organized rallies to celebrate the 45th year of its establishment. “Flagrant and human rights abuses against dissidents, journalist, artists and minorities persist on a daily basis, and only underline the regime’s weakness.”
Paley’s message has drawn thousands of online responses by Iranians, who point out that Washington’s appeasement of Tehran while it is engaged in abuses at home and destabilizing acts abroad has encouraged the regime to continue such behavior. A large number of activists as well as American Republican politicians say the Biden administration is “soft” on Iran, demanding more pressure and less compromise.
In an interview with Iran International in January, Paley himself said that “words are not enough” but no decisive action has been taken by the US to stop Iran. Washington regularly announces sanctions on Iranian officials and entities but overall enforcement is so lax that the Islamic Republic’s oil revenues have tripled since President Joe Biden assumed office.
The Biden administration seems to have framed its Iran policy around a wish to revive the abandoned 2015 nuclear deal or at least come to another (written or unwritten) agreement that would limit Iran’s nuclear program. It also agreed to release billions of dollars of Iran's revenues frozen in South Korea and Iraq under US sanctions as part of a prisoner swap deal, described by critics as the biggest ransom ever paid to a hostage taker. About $6 billion was freed up for Iran in September after Iran released five Iranian-Americans held in Tehran in exchange for five Iranians imprisoned in the US, and another $11 billion from Iraq.
Paley highlighted that instead of providing for its people's needs, the Iranian regime spends money “on expanding its nuclear program in ways that have no credible, peaceful purpose, fueling instability across the region, proliferating dangerous weapons to places like Russia and disrupting international commerce.”
Considering Iran’s supply of drones and missiles for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is no surprise that Moscow was among the first countries that congratulated Iran on the anniversary. In a video message, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova echoed a propaganda line reiterated by Iranian authorities, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, saying that Russia and Iran are joining forces to establish a new global order.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi also delivered a speech for the occasion, which -- not-surprisingly – was again focused on Israel and the war in Gaza. Since Iran-backed Hamas attacked Israel, Tehran and its regional proxies have ramped up their operations against US targets. Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria have been striking US bases, Hezbollah in Lebanon has been launching missiles towards northern Israel, and Yemen's Houthis have been attacking commercial vessels in the Red Sea, all in allegiance with Hamas to pressure Israel into ceasing its offensive in Gaza. Hamas is part of Iran's "Axis of Resistance", a regional alliance that includes Lebanon's Hezbollah, the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, Shiite militia groups in Iraq and the Houthis who control a large part of Yemen.
While thousands of people chanted "Death to Israel" and “Death to America” in rallies across Iran on Sunday, with some burning US and Israeli flags, President Raisi accused the United States and some Western countries of backing "the Zionist regime's (Israel) crimes against humanity in Gaza".
Paley, elsewhere in his message, claimed that “the Islamic republic has never been more isolated than it is today” because of its own choices. The statement was reflected in Raisi’s speech from a very different perspective as he claimed Iran is “the most independent country in the world, not depending on the West or the East”
Paley also acknowledged that “the people of Iran have demonstrated courage and resilience in the face of a system that sensors, arrests, tortures and execute them." Raisi said that “contrary to what proponents of free speech claim, real freedom exists in this country and system.”
Addressing Iranians, Paley said “the United States will continue to support you in your fight for a free and Democratic future.” “We will continue to provide tools to access the uncensored Internet that you need to advocate for your future, and we will continue to work with partners to counter the regime support for terrorism across the Middle East, which comes only at your expense.”
Many Iranians marked the 45th anniversary of the 1979 Revolution on the eve of regime-sponsored celebrations with cries of "Death to the Dictator" and “Death to the Islamic Republic,” ringing through neighborhoods in the capital Tehran.