Iran and Russia's Lost Love

Mounting grievances on both sides come to a head over nuclear issue.

[ opinion ] For 30 years, "Marg bar America" (death to the United States) was the chant at every political gathering, Friday prayer, and state-staged demonstration in the Islamic Republic. When high officials meet with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, his speeches are repeatedly interrupted by chants of "Marg bar America." It is known that even as Iran and the United States negotiated the release of the American hostages in late 1980 and January 1981, the Iranian delegation, led by Behzad Nabavi (now a top Reformist strategist, who was arrested right after last year's rigged presidential election), would chant "Marg bar America" before entering the sessions. The chants angered Warren Christopher, head of the U.S. negotiation team, and partly explain why he was so fiercely anti-Iran when he was Secretary of State during President Bill Clinton's first term.

But things began to change after the events of last June. On July 17, former president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani led a highly anticipated Friday prayer in Tehran. To preempt what he might say and send a message about what sort of content was acceptable, the hardliners arranged for Reza Taghavi to speak before him. Taghavi coordinates what Friday prayer leaders throughout the country are meant to talk about in their sermons each week. On this occasion, every time he shouted "Marg bar America," the crowd responded with chants of "Marg ba... >>>

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