After eight years of President Barack Obama's policies of appeasement, Iran's threats, such as "Death to America," and "Death to Israel," have grown even louder.
This week, the Iranian government orchestrated one the largest anti-American and anti-Israeli demonstrations, since 1979, echoing Iran Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's recent messages.
The government provided facilities for the protesters. Chants of "Death to America" and "Death to Israel" were heard across Iranian cities as thousands of Iranians marked the anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the taking of 52 American hostages for 444 days by militant students.
According to the Tehran-based bureau of the Los Angeles Times,
"The demonstrators brought by buses to the former embassy complex included young and old, university students, military staff and employees of state-run companies who voiced opposition to the nuclear deal Iran signed with the United States and world powers... Many echoed Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.... Almost 1 in every 10 demonstrators at the former embassy -- now widely dubbed a "den of espionage" -- carried placards with Khamenei's words: 'We do not trust America.'"
Iranians protest outside the former US embassy in Tehran, on the anniversary of its storming by student protesters in 1979. (Image source: AFP video screenshot)
The chants were accompanied by burning American and Israeli flags, and Stars of David. This all is occurring in a country that is presided over by the so-called "moderate" president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani and his foreign minister, Javad Zarif; both continue to argue that Iran is a constructive state actor, does not hold hostility against any country, and that Tehran is looking to improve ties with the West and the international community -- so long as Iran's objectives are met.
The State Department's reaction is classic: ignoring these developments and continuing with appeasement policies. State Department spokesman Mark Toner stated that the White House is not going to change its policies towards Iran:
"Like any country, there's heated political rhetoric that comes out, and I'm just not going to respond to every instance of that in this case. No one likes to see this kind of hyper-charged rhetoric on the part of any government anywhere, and anti-American sentiments expressed. But again, we're not going to base our whole relationship going forward ... on these kind of heated political remarks."
However, these large-scale anti-American demonstrations are not rhetoric, but are the cornerstone of Iran's revolutionary principles and foreign policies, which manifest themselves in Iran's support for terrorist proxies, support for Assad's regime, and the scuttling of US and Israeli foreign policies in the region.
In fact, alleging crimes against the US plays very well within the political establishment of Iran. For example, one of the hostage takers who occupied the US embassy, Masoumeh Ebtekar, has climbed the political ladder remarkably. She was first the editor-in-chief of Keyhan International, an Iranian state-owned newspaper, and close advisor to the Supreme Leader. Later she was appointed as the head of the Environment Protection Organization of Iran during the "reformist" administration of President Mohammad Khatami. Afterwards the "moderate" President Rouhani appointed her as the Vice President of Iran, the first woman to serve such position.
The Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency scored an interview with her during the "Death to America" rally. She boasted about taking US hostages and US documents from the embassy: "Revealing these documents was very similar to what WikiLeaks is doing these days. It was the WikiLeaks of that time." According to the AFP,
"She now regrets the diplomatic isolation that followed the embassy siege, but she is still proud of their work in releasing documents found in the CIA's files -- some painstakingly reassembled after embassy staff frantically shredded as many as possible when the students stormed the building."
Many other Iranian officials who were engaged in attacks against the US currently serve in high positions.
Hossein Salami, who enjoys one of these high-level positions, is the deputy commander in chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). He stated at the rally, in reference to the role of the IRGC in the bombing of the U.S. Marines barracks in Lebanon, "In 1983, the flames of Islamic revolution flared among Lebanese youth for the first time, and in a courageous act, a young Muslim buried 260 United States Marines under the rebels east of Mediterranean Sea."
Last week, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reasserted his stance against the US more firmly, saying, "The US system is far away from values of humanity, death to America means death to a system which has nothing to do with humanitarian values." Khamenei also dismissed diplomacy with the United States, arguing that these negotiations "will not resolve our problems... We should resolve the problems ourselves and with reliance on our capabilities and the young forces inside the country."
Iran's anti-American policies are buttressed and supported by Iran's powerful military institutions, domestic militia groups such as the Basij, Iran's proxies such as Hezbollah, and the hundreds of thousands of people who join these kinds of "Death to America" demonstrations. Iranian leaders evidently enjoy powerful loyalist employees and supporters.
As a passionate protestor told the Euronews, "We are here to chant slogans, and our slogans are a strong punch in the face of America. America can never touch our country, and as our leader said, America can't do a damn thing."
In addition, Hossain Salami, the acting commander of the IRGC, pointed out at the rally that: "America should know that if they do not honor their agreement in the nuclear deal, we will resume uranium enrichment and send the agreement ... to the museum."
Accordingly, "crowds chanted support for the Syrian government and other Shiite Muslim-led regimes in the Middle East, saying, "We will never give it up."
For eight years, Washington pursued total appeasement policies with Iran. The four rounds of crippling UN Security Council sanctions, which took decades to put in place, were lifted immediately. Iran's ballistic missile ambitions and test firings of missiles, in violation of the UN resolutions, were ignored. The expanding militaristic role of the Revolutionary Guard was taken lightly.
None of these appeasement policies changed the political calculations of Iranian leaders towards the US and Israel. In fact, based on these developments, Iranian leaders became more emboldened and empowered, to the extent that they repeatedly harass naval ships of the world's superpower without fearing any repercussions. Iran uses its proxies to attack US ships.
"Death to America" and Iran's anti-American policies will not change if the US continues to appease Iranian leaders. For Iran, appeasement policies do not mean diplomatic initiatives; concessions mean only weakness.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, political scientists and Harvard University scholar is president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He can be reached at Dr.firstname.lastname@example.org.