"Death To America" is the favored rally chant of Iranian protestors. That one phrase has been synonymous with the culture of Iranian protests since the ousting of the Shah and the beginning of the Islamic Revolution 40 years ago.
And yet, 40 years later, the Supreme Leader of Iran, the Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has decided to revise the long history of Iranian protests against the West with the claim that "Death to America" doesn't actually mean death to America, but is actually a chant aimed directly at the current U.S. president, Donald J. Trump and his administration.
According to Ayatollah Khamenei, “‘Death to America’ means death to Trump, (National Security Adviser) John Bolton, and (Secretary of State Mike) Pompeo. It means death to American rulers.”
The Supreme Leader explained that Iranians will continue to rally and shout "Death to America" as long as U.S. leadership is hostile to Iran. The point he is making is that Iran is not against the people of American, Iran is against those who lead America.
The argument should sound familiar. We have been hearing it for years, but not from Iran. It is exactly the point of view articulated by every U.S. administrations in Washington, D.C., for four decades. American political leadership has consistently explained that their beef is not with the people of Iran, it is with the deluded and disingenuous leadership of Iran. U.S. political echelon has taken it a step further claiming that Iranian leadership and their policies and world view actually do harm to the people of Iran.
On Friday, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, while addressing Iranian Air Force officers, the Grand Ayatollah, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, “As long as America continues its wickedness, the Iranian nation will not abandon ‘Death to America’.”
Somewhere along the way these past 40 years, Iranian leadership has lost sight of the promises the Iranian Revolution was supposed to fulfill. The original mission of the Iranian Revolution has been derailed, transformed, sublimated. 40 years ago the Iranian Revolution promised to transform Islam. It promised to change the way the world viewed Islam. Forty years later, not much has changed. Their revolution failed.
The Supreme Leader's point is clear. Iranian leadership despises U.S. President Trump. But they equally despised U.S. President Obama and U.S. President Bush before him. Right or left, Republican or Democrat, it's all the same for Iranian leadership.
Iran justifies their newly stated stance saying that Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal, penned in the spring of 2015. And it was Trump's pressure on world governments that re-imposed sanctions against Iran. The Iranians have reason to be displeased with Trump. The sanctions are stifling Iranian life on all levels, the middle class is suffering the worst of it.
We should not be surprised by these comments by the Iranian Supreme Leader. Neither should we buy into his rhetoric. Of course he dislikes, even viscerally despises Donald J. Trump. But he's not just venting, he has a larger motive. Iranian leadership craves world domination. And the Supreme Leader has co-opted this long-standing and familiar rally call "Death to America" and intends to ride the "Hate Trump" train first in Iran and then around the world.
None of this should make a difference in U.S. policy or in our attitude toward the Islamic Nation. Nothing has changed. And yet, in parts of the world, the Supreme Leader's strategy is proving effective. The Ayatollah is successfully rallying other leaders with strong anti-U.S., anti-American sentiment.
Those who dislike the United States do not like her because Donald J. Trump is the president. They dislike the United States because of all the U.S. stands for. Iran is simply teasing out the natural resentment of other countries against the United States. In the long run, they will fail. But for now, the fervor and momentum is growing.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. To read more of this reports — Click Here Now.