Cotton has also never been an advocate for police reform, or even for peaceful protest. The current protests in Iran have been compared by many to the 2020 racial justice protests in America following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In both instances, protesters were shocked by police brutality and were calling for change. During the height of the protests in America in 2020, the Republican senator from Arkansas published an op-ed in The New York Times titled “Send in the Military,” advocating for a military response to quell protests.
But that hasn’t stopped some from praising his response to the protests in Iran this week. An Instagram post of his statement translated in Persian by Iran International garnered more than 100,000 likes as of Thursday afternoon. At the time of Cotton’s statement, many Democratic officials, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and many members of the progressive House group known as the “Squad” had yet to say anything about Iran. (Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been the only member of the Squad to say something, calling for solidarity with the protesters in an Instagram story on Wednesday evening.)
On Thursday, nearly a week after the death of Amini, the Treasury Department sanctioned Iran’s “morality police,” as well as seven leaders of Iranian security organizations that it said “routinely employ violence to suppress peaceful protesters and members of Iranian civil society, political dissidents, women’s rights activists, and members of the Iranian Baha’i community.” (It’s unclear why the morality police was not sanctioned before this, given the wide scope of U.S. sanctions on Iran.)