Our Death-to-America Nuclear Negotiating Partners


Editorial Page Writer, The Wall Street Journal.

July 10, 2015

On Thursday, Western diplomats in Vienna missed another deadline in the years-long Iranian nuclear negotiations. The latest snag is Iran’s demand for immediate sanctions relief and the lifting of a United Nations arms embargo. The next day in Tehran, the regime issued other demands—namely, that the U.S. and Israel cease to exist.

Thousands of regime supporters on Friday marked Quds Day, an annual hate festival established in 1979 by Ayatollah Khomeini. (Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem.). Braving a stifling heat wave, the Quds Day celebrants burned the American flag and displayed a caricature of what appeared to be King Salman of Saudi Arabia—a U.S. ally and detested Middle East rival—with his head morphing into a Star of David, topped by a Stars and Stripes yarmulke. All accompanied by the holiday tradition of chanting “Death to America!”

Quds Day is fun for the whole family. As one father told the semiofficial Fars News Agency in a video interview, “Our children who are less than a year old are tomorrow’s soldiers against Israel.” The infant son he held in his arms was dressed in camouflage gear, with a Yasser Arafat-style kaffiyeh around his neck.

Regime leaders joined in the festivities. The government’s representatives included the reputedly moderate President Hasan Rouhani, not-so-moderate former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, his brother Sadeq, the head of the judiciary, and Gen. Ahmad Reza Pourdastan, commander of the Iranian army’s ground forces.

Mr. Rouhani said in a Persian-language statement on his website: “With unity, resistance, jihad and sacrifice, the Muslims, including the Palestinian people, will reach their lofty goals.” He didn’t specify those goals, but the “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” banners held up by marchers around him, seen in photographs published by regime media outlets, drove home the point. Mr. Rouhani went on to blame “the Zionist regime and the Global Arrogance”—a favorite regime nickname for Washington—for “bankrolling the strife” roiling the Muslim world.

Tehran’s Kayhan newspaper also weighed in. Iran’s 1979 revolution, the newspaper wrote in an English-language editorial, “busted the myth of the holocaust which the Zionists and their godfathers allege happened in Europe during World War II.” The editorial predicted that the U.S., “which currently terrorizes humanity as the sole superpower, will one fine day cease to be visible on the map of the world.”

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appoints Kayhan’s editor in chief, and the newspaper is widely seen as the leader’s main mouthpiece. The leader’s top military aide, Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, echoed the paper. According to an English-language Fars News report, Gen. Safavi told Quds Day attendees: “Muslims unity and continuation of armed jihad (struggle) and the Islamic resistance of the Palestinian nation constitute the only strategy for saving and liberating the Holy Quds.”

Since 2013 the Obama administration has permitted the Iranians to enrich uranium in defiance of six U.N. Security Council resolutions. Washington has backed away from the requirement that Tehran come clean about the military dimensions of its program before a deal can be signed. Seeking anytime, anywhere inspections has given way to trying to obtain “managed access.” Since Secretary of State John Kerry and his fellow negotiators seem to be having so much trouble getting concessions from Iran on large matters, maybe it would be better to start small: See if the regime would agree to knock off the calls to destroy the U.S. and Israel.

Sohrab Ahmari is an editorial page writer for the Wall Street Journal Europe, based in London.  He joined the Journal in New York as an assistant books editor after serving as a Robert L. Bartley fellow in 2012. Prior to joining the Journal, he earned a law degree from Northeastern University and was a nonresident fellow at the Henry Jackson Society. Mr. Ahmari is co-editor of “Arab Spring Dreams,” an anthology of essays by young dissidents in the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

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