White House officials said that the United States is seeing signs Russia may be advising Iran on how to crack down on public demonstrations, after clashes broke out across Iran during demonstrations marking 40 days since the death of Mahsa Amini.
“We are concerned that Moscow may be advising Tehran on best practices, drawing on Russia’s extensive experience of suppressing open demonstrations,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a press briefing on Wednesday. “The evidence that Iran is helping Russia rage its war against Ukraine is clear and it is public. And Iran and Russia are growing closer the more isolated they become. Our message to Iran is very, very clear – stop killing your people and stop sending weapons to Russia to help kill Ukrainians.”
Jean-Pierre and John Kirby, the communications coordinator at the National Security Council who spoke later in the briefing, did not provide evidence for the accusation.
Protests have swept through the Islamic Republic following the death of Amini, the 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman who died on September 16 after being detained by the country’s “morality police” and taken to a “re-education center,” allegedly for not abiding by Iran’s conservative dress code. And nationwide protests marking 40 days since Amini died sparked clashes through Iran on Wednesday.
Kirby said that he would not get into the sources of the information to back Jean-Pierre’s assertion about Russian advisement to Iran, but underscored that “she was putting forth a fact, that we know they may be considering some sort of support to Iran’s ability to crack down on the protesters.”
“And sadly, Russia has experience at doing that. So, we’ll see. We’ll watch where this goes. But it’s just yet another example of Russia and Iran now working together to violate not only the human – the civil rights of people in Iran, but of course put in further danger the lives of Ukrainians,” he added.
While Kirby initially said the US is seeing “signs that they may be considering the ability to help train Iranians on cracking down on protesters,” he subsequently clarified that the US is seeing signs Moscow actually “may be advising” Tehran on the matter.
The US claim about Moscow’s possible involvement with Tehran comes the same day the US imposed a slew of additional sanctions against Iranian officials involved in the ongoing crackdown on nationwide protests in Iran, including Treasury Department sanctions on the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ intelligence organization and the IRGC’s deputy commander for operations, as well as two officials in the Sistan and Baluchistan province, which the department called the “site of some of the worst violence in the latest round of protests.”
The Biden administration’s punitive measures on Iran for its crackdowns on protesters comes as the US and Europe work to counter Iran and Russia’s growing cooperation on the war in Ukraine. Russian forces have in recent weeks pummeled Ukrainian cities with Iranian drones. State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said last week that the “deepening” of relations between Moscow and Tehran should be seen as “a profound threat.”
Patel said that the United States would “continue to take practical, aggressive steps to make these weapons sales harder, including sanctions, export control actions against any entities involved.”
“We have extensive tools available at our arsenal to disrupt not just Iranian arms transfers, but also to continue to hold Russia accountable for their preposterous acts in Ukraine as well,” Patel said at a department briefing last Tuesday.
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler, Celine Alkhaldi, Adam Pourahmadi, Tara John contributed to this report.