Iran: 'Death to America' Is Still Our Slogan

The Islamic Republic declares it will never abandon its core mission.

If you are an Iranian politician, you are living in a golden time: the economic sanctions are getting lifted against the Islamic Republic due to the nuclear deal and, thanks to the Obama administration, Tehran is getting a free pass on military interventions in the region. Apparently, Iranian lawmakers and politicians decided last week to pay the US back for its efforts. How?

Last week an overwhelming majority of Iranian lawmakers and parliamentarians at Majlis stated that the Islamic Republic will not abandon the slogan of “Death to America.” 

In a statement released by Iran’s state news agency IRNA, lawmakers insisted in a joint statement that the “martyr-nurturing nation of Iran is not at all prepared to abandon the slogan of ‘Death to America’ under the pretext of a nuclear agreement.”

It follows that “Death to America” will continue during Friday prayers, protests, or special holidays such as the anniversary of the hostage taking crisis of 1979, a siege on the US embassy in Tehran, Independence Day, etc. 

In addition, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told Iranian students in Tehran, according to The Associated Press, that “your ‘Death to America’ slogan, and the cries by the Iranian nation, have strong logical support behind them.” He also added that the “slogan ‘death to America’ is backed by reason and wisdom.”

The Obama administration argued that the removal of economic sanctions and the signing of the nuclear deal would make the Islamic Republic more rational. Well, it appears that rationality from the perspective of the ruling clerics in the Iran means more anti-American and anti-Semitic sentiments. 

Intriguingly and naively, the US Secretary, John Kerry, asked the Iranian leaders during the nuclear talks to consider abandoning the slogan “Death to America.“ This would have made it much easier for the Obama’s administration to further legitimize the Islamic Republic even though Iran would continue the same aggressive policies. 

The question is why is it so hard for the Left to observe that the Islamic Republic will never abandon its anti-American sentiments, slogans, and policies?

Governments that normally emerge after revolutions and adopt revolutionary ideals to define their socio-political character and identity will find it almost impossible to emerge free of these revolutionary principles and alter their identity. 

This means that changing the system will result in the collapse of the system, something that is well out of the reach of one individual, even if that person is the Supreme Leader. The legitimacy of the system relies on those ideals. 

After the 1979 revolution, two key elements characterized the core belief, nature and identity of the Islamic Republic: anti-Western values (particularly opposing US policies in the Middle East) and the Islamist religious character (Shiite theology).

The religious or Shiite character of the Iranian government was formulated and spread through seminaries, changing schools curriculum, imposing religious laws, merging Shiite laws with the constitution, imposing the hijab, etc. 

The anti-Western character of the Iranian government was fossilized and strengthened through two elements: Iran’s regional policies and its hardline institutions (such as the military, Basij, intelligence, judiciary, etc.). Tehran’s regional policies of supporting Shiite proxies and allying itself with rivals of the US are aimed at scuttling US (and Israel) policies in the region and proving the Islamic Republic’s regional preeminence, superiority and hegemony. 

The government created several hardline institutions (including Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps) and invested a good chunk of its budget and oil sales in these institutions. Over the past thirty years, the character of these institutions, their identity, and their political and economic monopoly was formed based on the anti-American values of the revolution.

The hardline institutions are used to ensure the hold-on-power of the Supreme Leader and he, in return, ensures their monopoly over social, political and economic spectrums. 

The Supreme Leader will never declare that the slogan “Death to America” should be abandoned, because this would shatter the foundations of his social and political base (the judiciary, hardline clerics, etc.), as well as the military institutions (IRGC) that protect him. In addition, the Islamic Republic has conveniently used its hostility towards the US as a powerful strategy and tactic to repress domestic oppositions or throw blame on Washington for domestic economic mismanagement. How hard is it for the liberals to see this simple truth?