If you’re worried about Iranians chanting “Death to America,” I found something for you to read

Robin Wright, one of the best Western journalists out there when it comes to reporting from inside Iran, has a new piece in The New Yorker today on the common Iranian chant, “Death to America.” If you are unfamiliar with Iran and perhaps troubled by their use of this chant, or perhaps you’re a Republican politician and Sheldon Adelson is paying you to be troubled by their use of this chant, Wright demystifies its meaning for you by, and I know this is a shocking idea but stick with me here, actually asking actual Iranians about it. It’s really a great piece.

Wright gets a lot of explanations as to why Iranians still chant this phrase — it’s a demand for America to stay out of Iran’s affairs, it’s a ritual performance that has no real meaning, the people who still chant it are a small minority of Iranians — but the common thread is that it’s an expression of Iranian frustration at the way US policy has affected their country over the past 60 years:

Amir Zamaninia, who did graduate work at Chico State, in California, is now Iran’s deputy Oil Minister for International and Commercial Affairs. His son, he told me, is studying philosophy at Rutgers. A former diplomat, Zamaninia is now planning projects totalling two hundred billion dollars to develop Iran’s oil and gas industries over the next six years. He’s hoping for foreign investment if sanctions are limited. “What Iranians want next is to persuade the public in the United States not to think that we have nothing to do but be on the streets shouting ‘Death to America!’ every day,” he said. “We have our business, our own entertainment, and our own life to live. Saying ‘Death to America!’ has been a permanent fixture of the revolution that we don’t listen to anymore. It comes out as a matter of routine.”

Nasser Hadian got his doctorate at the University of Tennessee and taught at Columbia. He is now a Tehran University political scientist and influential voice in policy circles. His daughter is in graduate school at Tulane. “Saying ‘Death to America’ is meaningless,” he told me. “It’s actually not acceptable in our culture, because they’re saying death to a whole people. It’s said by only twenty per cent of the population. And only a teeny per cent of that twenty per cent believes in it. They think America crystallizes and stands for all bad things in the world—the same way some Americans think about Iran. America has killed more Iranians than Iranians have killed Americans. The U.S. supported Saddam Hussein during his war with Iran, when hundreds of thousands died.”

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3 thoughts on “If you’re worried about Iranians chanting “Death to America,” I found something for you to read

  1. One other way about looking at the “Death to America” chant is, that it is as you mentioned shouted by a minority once a year (anniversary of the revolution), and it is shouted by nobodies.

    “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” and “all military options are on the table” on the other hand originate from influential politicians of worlds military super power. So while Americans do not have to be too concerned about those shouts by nobodies from a country that has not invaded any other country since hundreds of years, Iranians have every reason to be terrified that they will be eventually attacked and thrown into chaos(similar to their neighbor countries).

    No moving away from politics the way real Iranians of today (75% were not even 10 years old 1979) is described in these posts:

    I hope you enjoy them.

    1. That’s a great site, thanks for putting it together and sharing it!

      You do hear the occasional (arguably) threatening comment toward the US from somebody in the IRGC or elsewhere in the Iranian security establishment, but I think the more relevant detail that supports your point is that the US really could obliterate Iran if it chose to do so, whereas Iran doesn’t pose anywhere close to that level of threat to the US. One look at the two countries’ respective defense budgets, or at the placement of US bases in the Middle East, makes it pretty clear who’s more vulnerable to whom.

      1. Yes exactly, it is as if the lion would feel threatened and worried by comments of the mouse. I think most comments from the IRGC that I have noted were about “devastating Iranian response if the US dares to attack”. No one in the establishment or in higher ranks is really as crazy to think Iran should go into the offensive. They have also accumulated too much wealth in the last decades to take an unnecessary risk to lose everything. As you saw in the post in my article collection that had “The Atlantic” as source the Iranian government is not composed by lunatics, but most of the administration has Phds … from US universities. Foreign minister Zarif’s children even grew up in the US. The Iranian people are in average pretty pro US, and even the government is making a U-Turn on foreign policy decisions of the past. They just cannot do it too fast to not lose their face in front of their own supporters.

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