Iran General Rejects Eliminating ‘Death to America’ Chant

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After Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani and the editor of a popular Iranian news website suggested that the “Death to America” chant could cease to be used, Deputy Chief of Mobilization Force and Defense Cultural Affairs of Iran’s Armed Forces Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri said that the chant would “resonate across” the country Nov. 4 during the National Day Against Global Arrogance ceremonies.

“To promote the country’s strength in defense and the people’s wisdom in recognizing the enemy,” said Jazayeri yesterday, “from right now, we will form a grass-roots organizing campaign for the Nov. 4 ceremonies and the day of death to America and Zionism, and this cry will resonate across the cities and villages of Islamic Iran.”

Jazayeri added, “The crimes of the American and international Zionism in confronting the great nation of Iran will never be erased from minds and memories.”

Earlier in the week, Iranian media had widely covered Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani’s assertions that then-supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini “agreed that ‘Death to America’ should be eliminated.”

On Oct. 1, Rafsanjani’s website published a short interview about his memoirs, during which he clarified upon his own position at the outset of the revolution that said he “did not agree that we should chant ‘death to someone’ in a public gathering. For instance, in our assemblies, the chant ‘Death to Bani Sadr’ (Iran’s exiled first president) was very popular, but I requested that they not say it at Friday prayers. There was ‘Death to Bazargan’ (the first prime minister) and I requested that they not say it. There was ‘Death to the Soviet Union’ and I said that right now we do not have much of a problem with the Soviet Union. I said it as well about America.”

Rafsanjani explained that he did not see these chants as “useful.” Some Iranian media outlets, however, have pointed out that no one else has heard Ayatollah Khomeini’s opposition to this chant.

On the same day of the Rafsanjani interview, the editor of Asre Iran wrote an op-ed stating that the chant “Death to America” could be changed, much like chants against the Soviet Union and China from the early days of the revolution were eliminated altogether, to one that does not target “a country, government or specific geographic location.” The op-ed pointed out that while the phone call between Presidents Hassan Rouhani and Barack Obama had worried some conservatives in the country, the chant was not part of the original revolutionary chants and had actually evolved over a series of diplomatic crises.

While most of Iran’s hard-liners have supported President Rouhani’s efforts at resolving the nuclear crisis, some appear to be drawing the line at normalization of ties by reminding Iranians that the grievances between the two countries run extremely deep. According to Jazayeri, the United States has taken many actions against Iran since the beginning of the revolution, such as “sanctions, economic blockade, freezing the assets of Iran, spying, political pressure, penetrating the country with armed forces … [and] imposing the [Iran-Iraq] war.”

Jazayeri said that the United States “needs to explain why it has started the largest systematic spying in Tehran to acquire information for terrorist acts … and to apologize and return damages for its criminal acts.” Jazayeri also accused the United States of taking “widespread cultural, propaganda and media” actions in its “soft war” against Iran in order to “distance themselves in the minds of society from the crimes they have committed against the rights of Iran.”