Blinken says US will try to help Iranians maintain access to internet amid blackouts

The content originally appeared on: CNN

CNN

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that the Biden administration “will certainly look for ways to facilitate technology services being made accessible to people in Iran” amid widespread internet outages during the nationwide unrest.

Anti-government protests have raged across Iran after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in the custody of the nation’s morality police in mid-September.

Last week, the US Treasury Department issued a general license meant to allow companies to provide services for internet access to Iranians without fear of sanctions.

At a press conference Tuesday, Blinken noted that the new general license “authorizes companies to provide things like cloud services, privacy technology, security technology, hardware and software to enable the Iranians to better communicate among themselves and also with the rest of the world.”

“Individual companies can come to us, to OFAC in this case, to determine whether their technology fits under the license,” he added, referencing the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

However, technological hurdles remain, as certain services require hardware to function. Blinken declined to say if the US would work with companies to physically get such hardware into Iran. The US and Iran do not have diplomatic relations and the US government does not have a presence there.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Monday it was up to private companies to “take steps that they deem appropriate” to broaden internet access in Iran, and did not offer details about whether the newly issued US general license has made a tangible difference in expanding that access.

“The Treasury Department, through the general license, has taken steps that, through its self-executing capacity, authorizes additional companies to provide software in some cases, hardware, that would be operational in Iran,” he said at a press briefing Monday.

“Of course, we’re not going to speak to what would be required for any such hardware to get into Iran. It is our charge, it is our responsibility to see to it that there are no restrictions, US government restrictions, that would prevent relevant software, in some cases, hardware from being operational inside of Iran,” he said.

In addition to issuing the general license, the Biden administration also imposed sanctions on the morality police last week “for abuse and violence against Iranian women and the violation of the rights of peaceful Iranian protestors.”

“Mahsa should be alive today,” Blinken said Tuesday. “The only reason she’s not is because a brutal regime took her life and took her life because of decisions she should be making about what she would wear or not wear.”

“Women in Iran have the right to wear what they want, they have the right to be free from violence, they have the right to be free from harassment. That’s true in Iran, it’s true, should be true everywhere,” he said.

CNN’s Casey Riddle contributed to this report.