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US lifts part of sanctions against Iran

The move aims to fuel anti-government protests by providing internet access, the Treasury Department said.

The US Treasury Department on Friday eased some restrictions on providing internet services to Iran, saying the move would help anti-government protesters. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said earlier that he would seek a sanctions waiver to bring his Starlink internet service to Iran.

According to guidelines issued by the Treasury, US companies will be able to supply Iran with web browsing, social media, video conferencing, gaming and messaging services and software, as well as software and VPN and anti-virus technologies enabling Iranians to access these services.

While the United States rarely lifts its far-reaching sanctions against Tehran, recent developments in Iran influenced the latest decision. Protests have been taking place there for a week following the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for wearing a “improper” hijab.

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With the Iranian government blocking internet access in much of the country, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said the United States “redoubled its support for the free flow of information to the Iranian people”.

Iranian officials have previously alleged that the forces of “out of the country” work to stir up unrest following Amini’s death. On the same day protesters first took to the streets in Iran, China warned other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which Iran joined that day, to beware of “color revolutions”.

The latest sanctions exemptions do not allow the sale or supply of “commercial grade Internet connectivity services or telecommunications transmission facilities”, such as satellite links, to Iran. On Thursday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Washington urged the Treasury Department to grant SpaceX mogul Elon Musk an exemption from that rule if he seeks permission to make his Starlink satellite internet service available in Iran.

Musk had earlier said that he would ask for such a dispensation.

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