Opinion | Elon Musk Has a Better Iran Idea

Opinion | Elon Musk Has a Better Iran Idea


People clash with police during a protest following the death of Mahsa Amini in Tehran, Sept. 21.



Photo:

str/Shutterstock

Protests have erupted in Iran again, this time over the death of a woman in police custody. The regime is cracking down as usual, but the Biden Administration and American entrepreneurs may have some help to offer.

Mahsa Amini,

22, died after she was arrested for allegedly violating Iran’s Islamic dress code. Iran’s morals police have become more oppressive, and women can be detained for even minor violations. Once a person is in custody, police can do more or less whatever they want without consequences.

Reuters says protests that began last weekend have spread to some 50 localities including Tehran. Demonstrators have yelled “we don’t want an Islamic Republic” and “Death to the Supreme Leader.” The government sent in riot police, and the human-rights group Hengaw said Thursday that at least 15 have been killed. Such demonstrations erupt periodically in Iran, and they may not jeopardize the regime. But they do reveal simmering unrest.

The protests also show the importance of getting information to Iranians about what is happening in their own country. Internet access abets resistance to the regime by allowing dissenters to coordinate and reassure each other that they aren’t alone. Iranian authorities know this is a vulnerability and have moved to control the internet.

Our contributor

Hossein Ronaghi,

who has criticized Iran’s pursuit of a “Chinese model of limited national intranet,” said in a video that he narrowly escaped an attempted violent arrest Thursday. Secretary of State

Antony Blinken

said Iran “cut off access to the Internet for most of its 80 million citizens” amid the protests, and authorities also restricted access to WhatsApp and Instagram.

Enter

Elon Musk,

who said on

Twitter

this week that he would seek an exemption to sanctions to make his satellite-internet system Starlink available in Iran. Mr. Musk has already provided Starlink services to Ukraine that have helped soldiers and civilians maintain communication despite Russian jamming.

U.S. law gives the executive branch broad discretion over enforcing sanctions, and on Friday the Treasury Department issued a license to “expand the range of internet services available to Iranians” and help “the Iranian people be better equipped to counter the government’s efforts to surveil and censor them.”

Mr. Musk’s SpaceX didn’t respond to a query about whether any additional sanctions barriers remained. But the Treasury license also clears the way for other American companies to help the Iranian people get online.

The Obama Administration failed to support the Green Revolution in 2009 as it sought a nuclear deal. So far the Biden Administration is supporting the right to protest, but it can help Iranians the most by helping them know the truth about their leaders.

Hundreds of people have been arrested in Russia in protests against Vladimir Putin’s partial mobilization of reserve troops for his war in Ukraine. Images: AP/AFP via Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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Appeared in the September 24, 2022, print edition as ‘Elon Musk Has a Good Iran Idea.’





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