‘Death to America’ is a rallying cry often heard in Iran since the 1979 revolution. Popularized by Islamist revolutionary and first Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khomeini, it has not been limited to protests, but has been heard in the halls of Iran’s parliament as well – as recently as last November, well after the election of the so called ‘moderate’ presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani.
But according to Rouhani, this infamous slogan is actually not a threat at all, and shouldn’t be taken literally. In his interview with Fareed Zakaria, on which we have already reported, the Iranian president attempted to provide an explanation:
Well, the people, when they say ‘Death to America!’ – do you know what they are really saying? What they mean to say relates to the aggressive policies of the US and intervention and meddling by the US. We don’t want those to continue.
‘Death to America,’ according to “moderate” Rouhani, is actually a peaceful call for democracy, a tool employed only to “make the US understand that its meddling is inappropriate” – and certainly not a belligerent call for, say, anyone’s death.
But even as Rouhani attempted to show a friendly face to CNN, another senior Iranian official, IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari, warned US Secretary of State that “direct battle with the US is the biggest dream of pious and revolutionary peoples across the world.”
He added “Iran can attack all the US interests in the region and they will never be able to show a proportionate reaction against Iran’s move,” in comments that did not escape the notice of Iran Daily Brief.
In light of Jafari’s words, the ‘Death to America’ chant doesn’t seem quite as harmless – or as metaphorical, or as democratic – as Rouhani would have CNN audiences believe.
“Death to America” is a “peaceful call for democracy”. We just don’t understand the Iranian interpretation. Perhaps courts of law should also adopt this policy. Threatening to kill someone is actually a friendly overture. And black is actually white. Is Rouhani fooled or is he trying to fool us?