Iran’s supreme leader, the ayatollah Ali Khamenei, put out a website message Tuesday insisting the “death to America” chant that’s played across the Middle East is not as dark and foreboding as it sounds – that it really refers to policy, not people.
“[The] aim of the slogan is not death to American people,” he said, the Associated Press reported. “The slogan means death to U.S. policies and arrogance.”
Khamenei also said the mantra gathers “strong support” in Iran.
He made the clarification while meeting with Iranian students in the leadup to the Nov. 4 anniversary of Iran’s 1979 storming and takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. That event led to the holding of 52 American hostages for 444 days.
Diplomatic ties between American and Iran have been severed ever since.
“Death to America” is a frequent mantra slung by Iranian and hard Islamist factions in the Middle East, along with “Death to the West” and “Death to Israel.”