By Haley Britzky, CNN
The Iranian regime is “fundamentally” misunderstanding its own citizens by blaming outside actors for the protests raging throughout the country, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.
“What’s happening in Iran is first and foremost about Iranians, about their future, about their country. And it’s not about us,” Blinken said. “And one of the profound mistakes that the regime makes is to try to point the finger at others, at the United States, Europeans, claiming that we’re somehow responsible for instigating or otherwise fanning the flames of the protests. That is to profoundly, fundamentally misunderstand their own people.”
Protests have erupted in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman detained by the morality police allegedly for not wearing her hijab properly.
Tensions surrounding the regime’s actions took center stage this week as Iran prepared to face off against the US in the 2022 World Cup, escalating further after the United States Soccer Federation changed Iran’s flag on its social media platforms to show support for protesters in Iran. US Soccer told CNN on Sunday that it wanted to change the official flag for 24 hours to show “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights” but always planned to go back to the original flag.
Blinken said on Wednesday that the world is “rightly focused on what’s happening in the streets in Iran,” and that the US has worked to ensure the Iranian people have “the communications technology that they need to continue to communicate with one another and stay connected to the outside world.”
“There are other steps that we’re taking diplomatically, across international organizations and with many other countries, to make clear how the world sees the repression that’s going on in Iran, to try to hold down those who are simply trying to peacefully express their views,” he said. “But the main focus has to remain on the Iranian people. This is about what they want, what they need, what they expect.”
Blinken also pointed to the continued support for the Ukrainian military by focusing on providing air defense systems against Russia. Though he declined to say if the US would be providing Patriot missile systems to Ukraine, he emphasized that “many countries” are working to ensure Ukrainians not only have capable air defense, but also training and ability to maintain those systems.
Efforts to help sustain Ukraine’s fight against Russia have increased as winter approaches and the Russian military continues to target civilian infrastructure.
“Heat, water, electricity, for children, for the elderly, for the sick — these are President Putin’s new targets. He’s hitting them hard,” Blinken said Wednesday. “This brutalization of Ukraine’s people is barbaric.”
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CNN’s Ben Kirby and Arnaud Siad contributed to this report.