President Joe Biden was “showing solidarity” with protesters when he said “we will liberate Iran” at a campaign event late Thursday, a White House spokesman clarified Friday.
The comment sparked an angry response from the government in Tehran and went beyond the president’s previous statements, which were carefully worded to suggest direct US involvement in the protest movement.
Biden told the crowd in California, “Don’t worry, we’re going to free Iran, they’re going to be free soon.”
A day later, the White House said Biden was supporting the protest movement and not representing a new approach.
“It was again expressing our solidarity with them,” said John Kirby, communications coordinator for the National Security Council. He said Iran’s leadership was “dealing with problems of their own making”.
“The president has been quite clear on this … we will continue to look for ways to hold the regime accountable for the way they treat their people,” he said.
However, Kirby said the US had no indication Iran was on the verge of regime change, despite Biden saying the Iranians would be “freed soon”.
Biden made the remark at a campaign event in Southern California for a vulnerable House Democrat after audience members raised the issue with a sign on the phone that read: “FREE IRAN.”
Protests have spread across Iran after the death of a young woman who was being detained by the country’s moral police. The president has expressed support for the protests and his administration last month imposed sanctions on Iranian officials for their treatment of protesters.
While the Biden administration has expressed support for the Iran protests, its previous messaging has sought to avoid any implication that the US is somehow directing the current movement.
Iranian authorities have repeatedly tried to blame the US and other foreign governments for the ongoing protests that have gripped the nation since mid-September.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi responded to Biden by expressing his support for the protest movement and vowing to “liberate Iran” in a televised address on Friday.
“A few hours ago, the president of the United States informed me of the détente [said], ‘Soon we will liberate Iran’. We were liberated 43 years ago, and Iran will never be your milk cow,” Raisi said.
“America aims to destroy our national unity and coherence. The Americans want to repeat the experience of Libya, Syria and other countries in our country,” he continued.