Since the Iranian Revolution began in 1978, the United States is known among protestors as the “Great Satan.” “Death to America” is the favorite chant of pretty much anyone who wishes to display his or her anti-American credentials, whether it’s an al-Qaeda terrorist or an Iranian politician. Now, the Iranian supreme leader finally offers some clarification behind the chant.

“‘Death to America’ means death to Trump, (National Security Adviser) John Bolton, and (Secretary of State Mike) Pompeo,” said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “It means death to American rulers,” reports Reuters.

Khamenei was speaking to an audience of Iranian Air Force officers gathered to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution which ousted the Shah, triggered the American embassy hostage crisis, and put Iran into a protracted and deadly struggle with the U.S. Surprisingly, Khamenei emphasized that neither the Iranian leadership nor Iranian people wish death to the average American. It’s American leadership they find odious and evil.

“As long as America continues its wickedness, the Iranian nation will not abandon ‘Death to America’,” added Khamenei.

The current Iranian leadership seems poised to a policy of isolationism and defiance. Despite the European Union’s (EU) overtures to Iran, with promising economic and infrastructural deals, Tehran opts for fiery rhetoric and proxy warfare.

“I recommend that one should not trust the Europeans just as the Americans,” said Khamenei with respect to his country’s relationship with the EU. “We don’t say, ‘don’t have contacts with them,’ but it’s an issue of trust.”

In addition to these provocative statements, hundreds of thousands of Iranians celebrated the anniversary of the Iranian Revolution by holding huge demonstrations and burning American flags. The marches were sponsored by the Iranian government. Aside from the superficial propaganda, the official sanctioning of the protests appears to be an attempt to divert domestic attention from the economic and standard-of-living hardships the Iranian people face due to the intransigence of their leaders.

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However, Iranian leaders insist it’s not their fault. In January, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani admitted his country has a serious economic and social crisis. But he diverted blame to the West.

“We will not let America become victorious…Iranian people have and will have some economic difficulties but we will overcome the problems by helping each other,” he said, according to Reuters.

In 2018, numerous protests sprung up across Iran. Then, they were aimed at the Iranian government and what the protesters believed to be its poor handling of the economy and senseless foreign policy which–many believe–turned Iran into a pariah state.