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The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

U.S. encourages women-driven protests in Iran

The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

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The big idea

U.S. encourages women-driven protests in Iran

The Daily 202 pointed out 10 days ago how President Biden has gone farther, faster in supporting protests in Iran than Barack Obama did in 2009. Since then, the administration has gone farther — and promises even more to help demonstrators and punish the regime.

So far, things seem to be moving on three fronts:

  • Rhetorical encouragement for Iranians who took to the streets after the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, in custody of the so-called Morality Police. The authorities grabbed her for supposedly covering her hair improperly.
  • Sanctions on officials and entities seen as repressing the demonstrations.
  • Support for steps to circumvent the Islamic Republic’s efforts to smother access to the Internet and other communications that might help organize the protests or spread the activist cause.

In an interview with CBS’s Norah O’Donnell this week, CIA Director William Burns promised support for the free flow of information inside Iran, while sidestepping questions on whether the U.S. government would help actually deploy the technical means to skirt an Internet blackout.

“The U.S. government has made very clear our support for the free flow of information and freedom of the Internet,” he said. Pressed on whether the U.S. would help deploy Starlink terminals to help Iranians get back on the web, Burns repeatedly demurred.

“All I can say is, you know, we are going to continue to be strongly supportive as a government in the free flow of information,” Burns said. (Any CIA action inside Iran would be fraught because the agency once helped overthrow an Iranian government.)

Asked whether the protests, which have swept across Iran, might be the start of a revolution, Burns did not answer directly. But he didn’t dispute the premise, either.

I don’t think they are isolated protests. And you know what is striking — at least to me and our analysts here — is the sweep of those protests right now,” he told CBS, adding that Iranians were “fed up in a lot of ways” with their government.

“They’re willing to take the risk of getting out and demonstrating because they’re fed up with economic decay, with corruption, with the social restrictions, especially, that Iranian women face, and with political repression as well,” the CIA director said.

Focus on dress codes

Separately, the White House and the State Department have gone beyond the usual broad lip service to international principles of human rights to specifically embrace the cause that triggered the unrest: flouting repressive dress codes for women.

Women should be able to wear what they want, free from violence or harassment,” Biden press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday. “Iran must end its use of violence against its own citizens simply for exercising their fundamental freedoms, their fundamental rights.”

(Interestingly, Jean-Pierre played down the significance of the CIA director making such sweeping remarks about Iran, noting that the president, his national security adviser and other top officials have also spoken out.)

That wasn’t the first time over the past two weeks that the United States made such common cause with Iranian protesters — particularly the women who have burned the traditional hijab headscarf and cut their hair in public to denounce Amini’s death.

While Biden did not do so in his most recent statement, late Monday, the State Department (and Jean-Pierre) have done so.

On Sept. 28, State Department spokesman Ned Price described Amini as “a young woman who was arrested for exercising what should have been a universal right to freedom of expression, in this case specifically the right to determine for herself her appearance, what she chose to wear.

A day earlier, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said “Mahsa should be alive today.  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,” he added.

None of this is astonishing or deserves the three-siren treatment on social media.

But given that the protests show no signs of fading away — quite the opposite — and given that (as we pointed out in that Sept. 23 column) the protests over the headscarf rules also build on a reservoir of anger at political repression and a terrible economy, with potentially calamitous results for the regime, it all deserves our unveiled attention.

What’s happening now

OPEC and its allies move to slash oil production by 2 million barrels a day

“A coalition of oil-producing nations led by Saudi Arabia announced Wednesday it would slash oil production by 2 million barrels per day, in a rebuke to President Biden that could push up gas prices worldwide and worsen the risk of a global recession,”  Jeff Stein, John Hudson and Rachel Lerman report.

“The OPEC Plus coalition said the cut in production would take effect in November. This would be the first time the group cut oil production targets since the beginning of the pandemic.”

White House says Biden’s Florida visit will be ‘above politics’

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday that Biden’s visit Wednesday to Florida to assess hurricane damage would be “above politics,”  John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro report.

There will be plenty of times — plenty of time to discuss differences between the president and the governor … but now is not the time,” Jean-Pierre said.

South Korea apologizes for missile crash during drill with U.S.

“South Korea’s military apologized Wednesday after a missile crashed during joint drills with the United States, alarming some residents on the country’s eastern coast. The U.S. military and South Korea fired surface-to-surface missiles into the sea in response to North Korea launching a ballistic missile over Japan on Tuesday, for the first time since 2017,”  Ellen Francis reports.

The war in Ukraine

Putin faces limits of his military power as Ukraine recaptures land

“Russian President Vladimir Putin is betting that an impending infusion of drafted troops can change the dynamic on the battlefield in Ukraine, but analysts say he is losing time, as his military operation succumbs further to Ukrainian advances and shows signs that it needs more than just raw personnel to regain the initiative,” Paul Sonne reports.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

Trump asks Supreme Court to intervene in Mar-a-Lago search case

“By taking the case to the Supreme Court, Trump gets another chance to publicly argue that he is being treated unfairly by the Justice Department, and if he succeeds, it could stymie or stall the ongoing investigation into his conduct,”  Devlin Barrett and Robert Barnes report.

Xi Jinping’s quest for total control of China is just getting started

“Over the last decade, Xi has reversed political changes of the 1980s designed to prevent over-centralization of power. He has done away with presidential term limits, reasserted party control and elevated his personal status to a level unseen in at least 30 years, if not the Mao era,”  Christian Shepherd and Eva Dou report.

At a crucial party congress beginning Oct. 16, Xi is set to complete his elevation to uncontested paramount leader. ‘Xi Jinping is somebody who has spent years making the whole ideological apparatus say that the party only works with him as leader, and only his way of thinking about things is accurate,' said Joseph Torigian, a China historian at American University in D.C.”

Fauci says he’ll testify if GOP holds hearings. ‘If they call me, of course.’

Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, said Tuesday that he would cooperate with probes led by congressional Republicans, should the GOP retake Congress this fall and hold hearings on coronavirus next year as its members have vowed to do,” Dan Diamond reports.

… and beyond

Mar-a-Lago documents included pardons, emails, legal bills

“The thousands of documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Florida home included a mix of government, business and personal affairs, including analysis about who should get a pardon, call notes marked with a presidential seal, retainer agreements for lawyers and accountants, and legal bills, according to newly disclosed logs created by federal investigators,” Bloomberg News' Zoe Tillman reports.

  • Whoops: “The detailed lists of seized materials were attached to a recently unsealed Aug. 30 report from the Justice Department. A judge had ordered the logs stay under seal but they appeared to be inadvertently posted to the public court docket. They’re no longer publicly visible.

Talk of ‘civil war,’ Ignited by Mar-a-Lago search, is flaring online

“Polling, social media studies and a rise in threats suggest that a growing number of Americans are anticipating, or even welcoming, the possibility of sustained political violence, researchers studying extremism say. What was once the subject of serious discussion only on the political periphery has migrated closer to the mainstream,” the New York Times' Ken Bensinger and Sheera Frenkel report.

The Biden agenda

Education Department reinforces Title IX protections for abortion and pregnancy

“The guidance for higher education institutions from the Department of Education, shared first with The 19th, reiterates the legal protections against discrimination against pregnancy — or the termination of a pregnancy — under Title IX. The fact sheet released by the department also reminds universities that they must treat pregnancy, childbirth and abortion ‘the same as any temporary disability’ under the health insurance plans they offer to students and faculty,” the 19th's Grace Panetta and Errin Haines report.

Top Pentagon official hails Ukraine gains as a ‘significant’ accomplishment

“Ukraine’s recent battlefield wins in the east and south of the country are a ‘significant operational accomplishment,’ a top Pentagon official said Tuesday, the same day the Biden administration announced it would transfer another $625 million of weapons to Kyiv,Politico's Lara Seligman reports.

Biden is actually Greek. And Jewish. And raised by Puerto Ricans.

Put Biden in front of a crowd, and he’ll try to connect with it — even if, at times, the connection seems to stretch the available facts. When delivering the commencement address for the U.S. Naval Academy, he claimed to have almost attended the school. When he spoke to a group of athletes in Israel, he suggested he came close to trying out as a walk-on in the NFL,” Matt Viser reports.

Where fentanyl is seized, visualized


Only about 11 percent of fentanyl is seized by the Border Patrol between checkpoints — the sort of scenario that often gets amplified as a point of political pressure.” 

Hot on the left

Sen. Ron Johnson downplays Jan. 6: ‘Not what an armed insurrection would look like’

“In remarks to the Milwaukee Rotary Club on Tuesday morning, the Wisconsin Republican argued that it was inaccurate to call the attack an ‘armed insurrection,’ because there were no firearms seized from the Capitol that day, despite plenty of evidence of firearms in the crowd,” Amy B Wang reports.

Hot on the right

Pence and his group, pushing conservative causes, keep a 2024 dream alive

“As he travels the country publicly backing Republican candidates and conservative causes ahead of the midterm elections, former Vice President Mike Pence has also been quietly huddling with donors and building a political operation that could serve as a springboard to a 2024 presidential campaign,” the NYT's Kenneth P. Vogel reports.

Today in Washington

Biden and first lady Jill Biden will land in Fort Myers, Fla., at 12:45 p.m.

At 1 p.m., the Bidens will survey storm damaged areas by helicopter en route to Fisherman’s Wharf.

They will get briefed by federal, local and state officials at 2 p.m.

At 2:35 p.m., the Bidens will meet with small business owners and local residents.

Biden will speak at 3:15 p.m.

The Bidens will leave Florida for D.C. at 4:40 p.m. They will arrive at the White House at 7:10 p.m.

In closing

If you’ve been wondering …

Elon Musk may soon own Twitter. What will it look like if he does?

“Many employees would probably be fired, while others would jump ship. Musk has said he plans to relax the rules and content moderation that seek to limit harassment, misogyny and bigotry on the site, as well as falsehoods about elections or public health guidelines. He has also suggested he would reinstate former president Donald Trump’s account,”  Elizabeth Dwoskin and Will Oremus report.

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.