Iran has no fight to pick with the American people, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said Friday. Well, maybe just a few of them.
In comments at a gathering of Iranian air force officers, in which he called the United States the “embodiment of evil,” Khamenei also parsed the “Death to America!” chants so often heard at pro-government rallies in Iran.
“I am telling the Americans, 'Death to America’ means death to [President] Trump, [national security adviser] John Bolton and [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo,” he said, according to the supreme leader’s official website. (The speech was delivered in Persian and used the Persian phrase for “Death to America.” But an English translation of the speech posted on the website substituted the phrase “Down with the USA.”)
The United States and Iran have had no formal diplomatic relations since 1980, after a group of students seized American hostages at the U.S. Embassy as part of Iran’s Islamic revolution. There are at least four Americans — some of whom are dual nationals — currently imprisoned in Iran.
“It means down with the American politicians in charge. We have no fight to pick with the American people,” Khamenei said.
But, he added: “As long as the United States shows viciousness and savagery, the Iranian nation will never cease shouting these words.”
The leader’s comments were part of a longer speech on Iran’s relations with the West after the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal. The pact between Iran and world powers stunted Iran’s nuclear energy program in exchange for widespread sanctions relief.
Last year, President Trump abandoned the accord and reimposed a near-total embargo on the Iranian economy, helping prompt shortages of goods and cutting off Iran’s oil exports.
In a bid to circumvent U.S. restrictions, European nations last week announced a “special purpose vehicle” to facilitate trade with Iran. Britain, France, Germany and the European Union all remain committed to the deal.
Still, Khamenei said Friday that he was skeptical of Europe and urged others to remain wary of their commitments.
“They cannot be trusted or respected,” he said of European countries. “We have experienced this time and again.”
“I am not calling for cutting ties with them,” he added, saying that Iran should know with whom it is signing certain agreements.