'Death to America' is nothing personal, Iranian President says

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in his first interview with Western media since the establishment of a framework for the Iranian nuclear deal, suggested that the notorious chant of “Death to America!” that some Iranians in Tehran perform on a weekly basis, which has little foundation in animosity towards the American people. Rather, this choice phraseology supposedly expresses the people’s disdain towards American foreign policy.

It has been shown that President Rouhani’s statement does have some factual merit. Iranian citizens view American citizens more positively than we view them. Oops. One point for Rouhani. Interestingly, they also don’t particularly trust our government, as a distinct matter. That’s some common ground we both share! It’s also consistent with Rouhani’s seemingly implausible claim.

Unsurprisingly, the media plays a large role in how Americans perceive Iran and its people. I mean, Iraq was bad enough to merit invasion (according to the government-media axis of the last decade) and Iran is only one letter different in name, plus they share a border! Those people have got to be bad apples. All of 'em.

But, being earnest, it is our failed foreign policy that has brought about the immense tension we have with the Middle East. It is American hubris in the realms of democracy promotion, international relations and power dynamics that have made us the enemy of various nations around the world. We don’t speak softly, and we browbeat nations everywhere with our overwhelming influence.

North Korea, for instance, may well be led by an irrational megalomaniac, but Pyongyang’s arguments for disdain of U.S. foreign policy are well-supported, if not fully by history, then by a dramatized narrative of their nation’s war against foreign imperialists. We are seen as the aggressor and the oppressor on many shores of the world. This cannot be forgotten by us, because it surely isn’t by the people who live in areas we’ve affected for the worst.

Regarding our interventionist policy in the post-9/11 era, “Mission Accomplished” would be a proper summation if the mission was to provoke hatred, fear and loathing of the U.S. across the planet. The pernicious affect and inherent hypocrisy in American foreign policy have turned millions against us ideologically, and much of it is our own doing.

When Iranians cheer “Death to America,” they are really cheering death to poverty, death to hunger, death to crippling, decades-long sanctions. Death to the oppressor, death to the hard power and intrusive reach that directs our country’s future to a relevant degree.

Repealing economic sanctions for international nuclear security is not some capitulation to the Islamists. It is the first step in cooling relations between the U.S. and Iran, the first step towards further diplomacy that will hopefully lead to peace in the contentious region sometime in these next two millennium. It will also repair the struggling Iranian economy by bringing millions of people out of poverty, starvation and malnourishment. This is a humanitarian victory on its own merits, and should be considered a strong initial building block to engender good will with the Iranian government and its people.

Policies like the recent nuclear deal are the type that will tone down the violent rhetoric of Iran against us. This deal reveals a mutual respect (and benefit) for Iran and much of the rest of the world, the U.S. included. We as Americans need to recognize that diplomacy is best worked out slowly — just like our own greatest national blueprints — and that continuing to pursue a more equitable policy for all will lead to a slow but certain improvement in Iran-U.S. relations.

Related Links:

Obama administration's Iran nuclear deal ignores Israel

Iran overturns death sentence for ex-Marine, game developer accused of spying


Reach the columnist at hfinzel@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @OnlyH_man

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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