TEHRAN — The emblematic “Death to U.S.A” chant resounded through the Iranian capital anew on Friday, one week after it appeared that the signature slogan could be sidelined as part of a possible thaw in long-acrimonious relations between Iran and the United States.
At the formal Friday prayers ceremony, hard-line Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami labeled President
"Americans have tried in the past 35 years to topple the Islamic system but failed," Khatami told worshipers at the heavily choreographed Friday prayer ceremony, referring to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which took place a year earlier according to the Persian calendar.
The handling of the "Death to U.S.A." chant reflects the deep divisions within the Iranian establishment about the prospect of any kind of détente with Washington and the West.
Last week, in the aftermath of new President
"Have I made any slogan that you are echoing?" the guest speaker, former culture minister Saffar Harandi, pointedly asked the crowd, and himself refrained from using the chant.
The message seemed to be that fanning the flames of anti-Americanism was off the official agenda as Iran pursued some kind of rapprochement with its longtime antagonist in Washington. The old reliable affirmation appeared to be moving into the realm of the politically incorrect, at least in moderate Iranian circles.
In fact, Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani, the controversial daughter of ex-president Ali Akbar Rasfanjani, a mentor of Rouhani's, publicly suggested that "Death to U.S.A" could be deleted from official discourse — though, she cautioned, the national interest must be considered before such a weighty decision was taken.
However, in his sermon on Friday on the grounds of Tehran University, Ayatollah Khatami reinstated “Death to the U.S.A.” to its elevated stature, providing worshipers with historical perspective about the slogan’s origins and its importance to the late
In his final message to Muslim pilgrims before his death, Khomeini mentioned the U.S. no fewer than 46 times "with hatred," Khatami stressed.
"The question is, has the United States in the last 35 years become less satanic?" Khatami asked. "No, but 35 times more satanic!"
Still, Khatami, reflecting the establishment view here, applauded the work of the Iranian diplomatic team in New York last month, even if some of their behavior in New York was, he said, "not appropriate."
Iran’s supreme leader,
The new Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who accompanied President Rouhani to New York, revealed this week on his Facebook page that he briefly checked into a hospital because of