America and Iran: Taking “death to America” “too literally"



Ayatollah Shirazi


America’s relationship with the theocracy in Iran is complicated. While Iran always makes anti-American noises, reality is more complicated.

In his book, Dining with al Qaeda, published in 2010 Hugh Pope, a British reporter who used to write for The Wall Street Journal, relates an instructive episode on Iran’s attitude to the US, in Pope’s words:       

The slogan appeared on the compound wall of Khamenei’s representative in Shiraz, Ayatollah Mohieddin Haeri Shirazi, who kept his offices in a jumble of box-like concrete constructions softened by palms and eucalyptus trees.
          The ayatollah was mocking my reporter’s need for neat categorizations, and he tossed his chaff into the chair with a trouble-loving twinkle in his eyes. He clearly did not often have the chance to address “the West.” He moved to a subject close to his heart: Why, why did America not realize that Iran was its friend?

          Surprised at this turn in the conversation, I mumbled something about Americans finding it hard to think well of a country that kept saying “Death to America.”
          “Oh, Americans take all that stuff far too literally!” said the ayatollah, happily hitting his stride. “It’s just propaganda. We are at war after all. The difference between Americans and us, though, is that we are only waging a war of words. How many Americans did we kill? None. But in our war with Iraq the Americans were helping the Iraqis use chemical weapons, you were selling the Iraqis Phantoms and Mirages.”
75 – 76



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