Iran’s supreme leader on Friday defended the “Death to America” chants which are standard at anti-US rallies in the country, saying that the slogan is directed at US President Donald Trump and America’s leaders, and not its people.
“‘Death to America’ means death to Trump, [National Security Adviser] John Bolton, and [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo. It means death to American rulers,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, according to his official website.
“As long as America continues its wickedness, the Iranian nation will not abandon ‘Death to America’,” Khamenei said at an event to mark the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution.
Khamenei was referring to Trump’s State of the Union address this week in which the American president, among other things, said: “We will not avert our eyes from a regime that chants death to America.”
In his State of the Union address, Trump contextualized his Iran policy by castigating the regime for its anti-Semitism.
Iran, he said, “chants death to America and threatens genocide against the Jewish people. We must never ignore the vile poison of anti-Semitism or those who spread its venomous creed.”
The need to take a strong stance against Tehran, the president implied, was evident in the attack at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, in which 11 were killed — believed to be deadliest act of anti-Semitic violence in American history.
Iran pushed back Wednesday with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeting that “Iranians — including our Jewish compatriots — are commemorating 40 yrs of progress despite US pressure, just as @realDonaldTrump again makes accusations against us.”
Last year, the president withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal and renewed sanctions on the Islamic Republic, actions that he said in his speech were intended to “ensure this corrupt dictatorship never acquires nuclear weapons.”