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Musk says Starlink will ask for exemption to US sanctions on Iran

Violence flares amid internet blackouts after woman dies in police custody

Elon Musk has said his satellite internet business Starlink will ask for an exemption to US sanctions on Iran.

The statement was made on Twitter in response to science journalist Erfan Kasraie, who described Starlink's service in the Western Asian country as a "game changer for the future."

Animosity between the States and Iran runs deep with sanctions spanning more than four decades in response to the Iranian nuclear program and the regime's support for what the US deems terrorist organizations.

Sanctions were tightened under the Trump presidency, and the US can come down hard on companies perceived to be sidestepping them, as in the case of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei CFO, who was detained in Canada for almost three years before the US agreed to release her in late 2021 in exchange for some concessions by the Chinese company.

Iran is most recently in hot water with the US for supplying drones to Russia for use in its invasion of Ukraine, where Starlink has begun supplying antennas and modems to the Ukraine military to improve wartime communications. The US further sanctioned Iran earlier this month after an alleged July cyberattack against NATO ally Albania.

Iran also has a history of oppression at home. On Friday, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in custody of the country's "morality police," who govern the ultraconservative dress code for women, sparking protests in a number of cities including the capital, Tehran.

The regime cracked down on the demonstrations violently, allegedly killing five. At times of unrest, Iran is known to restrict access to the internet, which was seen in action from Friday to Monday.

This is likely what inspired Kasraie to speak up to the world's richest man, and certainly something that any PR-savvy CEO would like to be seen to support in principle.

But whether Starlink should get an exemption in Iran, which has been at odds with the United States since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 when the ostensibly modern state transitioned to a theocratic regime, is a complicated matter.

In the unlikely event that a deal with Iran would be greenlit by the White House, Starlink would have to go through the country's government. Considering that the regime controls media and internet access, would it really allow civilians unfettered access to an American satellite network?

Musk says a lot of things. He said he would buy Twitter, and look how that went. Starlink may operate in other extreme environments like Antarctica, but for now, a black spot remains over Iran. ®

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