Anti-American Billboards Will Return, Say Iran’s Hard-liners

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After anti-American billboards were removed from the streets of Tehran, Iranian hard-liners promised that they’d be back.

The posters, which received much attention online and were even criticized by Reformist newspapers, were put up shortly after Iranian negotiators returned from Geneva after meeting with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) and held direct talks with the United States.

Most of the posters depicted two men sitting at a table facing one another. One showed a US official wearing a suit jacket but military fatigues beneath, and holding a shotgun under the table pointed at the Iranian negotiator, who wore the customary grey suits of Iranian officials. In another poster, next to the American official stood a snarling dog held back by a leash. In English, the text read, “The US Government Styles Honesty” and in Persian, “American Honesty.”

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After much attention and controversy, Tehran municipality spokesman Seyed Mohammad Hadi Ayazi said that there was no agreement with the city in regard to putting up the billboards, so many were collected and taken off the streets.

Kayhan editor Hossein Shariatmadari questioned the move to remove the billboards. He wrote that they “had no other message than to warn about American dishonesty” and that they would help the negotiating team rather than weaken it.

Hard-line Mashregh defended the billboards as accurate depictions of the American position in negotiations, writing, “The interesting point about the billboards is that no matter how diplomatic the negotiator acts above the table, underneath the table they use violent tools and arms pointed at the Iranian negotiator.” As evidence for this position, the article said that after US President Barack Obama spoke with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in what was called a historic step between the two countries, he immediately met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and said that with respect to Iran, “We take no options off the table,” meaning the military option against Iran is still present.

In an article titled “The Billboards Will Return To the City,” another Kayhan piece republished by Ansar-e Hezbollah, strongly criticized the removal of the posters and blamed members of the Iranian negotiation team for putting pressure on municipal Tehran officials to remove the posters.

The editorial said, “In the last few days, some of the compromising community, hiding behind the policy of the administration, labeled the artistic revolutionary designs of “American Honesty” as disturbing to the nuclear negotiations. And with this ridiculous excuse, they put so much pressure on the city that they were forced to remove many of the posters from Tehran.” It called the removal “cultural bullying” and expressed “serious criticism toward some of the inappropriate actions of our diplomats.”

The editorial concluded that the billboards will return during Ashura, when Shiites mourn Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

The editorial explained, “We have not installed all of the billboards” and that on Ashura, “The entire city will yell ‘Hussein’ and on that day, no one will want to negotiate with Yazid.” Imam Hussain was brutally killed on the orders of Yazid in 680 CE because he would not submit to Yazid’s unjust rule. The name “Yazid” has become synonymous with an unjust or oppressive ruler for the Shiites. The article continued, “Our billboards will return to the city. We will never reach a win-win with Yazid.” Rouhani administration officials have insisted that Iran and the West, particularly the United States, reach a “win-win” solution.

The posters were designed by Ehsan Mohammad Hassani, who manages Oj, the company that paid to have the billboards installed in Tehran.