“If you [Americans] behave with disrespect even just a little bit, [the Iranian people] will punch you in the mouth so hard that all your devouring teeth will fall out.” So warned Iran's Ayatollah Mohammad Ememi-Kashani in a Friday sermon at Tehran University, which aired on January 28, 2005, on Iranian TV channel 1.
This statement, and countless other threats by leading Iranian political, religious, and military leaders, which are frequently made on Iranian government-controlled TV channels, were shown on March 2, 2005, at the U.S. Capitol building as part of MEMRI's Lecture Series. Translated segments from these channels can viewed on the website of MEMRI's TV Monitor Project.
Another recent call against the U.S. came from Ayatollah Ahmad Janati, the Secretary of the Guardian Council, who appeared on Iran Channel 1 on February 4, 2005. In response to a crowd of thousands yelling “Death to America,” he exclaimed, “Allah willing, as soon as possible, may the Lord hasten their death….”
Programming on Iranian government-controlled TV includes a complex propaganda campaign against the U.S. For example, the Iranian News Channel IRINN-TV covered a conference titled “The World Without America” held by the Islamic Union of Students in Iran on November 8, 2004, which sought to “clarify what is going to happen in the near future.” The head of the Iranian Islamic Student Union, Hamid Aqaii, told the channel, “We believe that according to the predication of the late Imam [Khomeini] and the honorable leader [Khamenei], signs of the decline and fall of America have begun to appear.”
Anti-American music videos are an important part of Iranian propaganda. One video appearing on Sahar TV on August 12, 2004, was entitled “Satan.” Images of President Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Congress were shown with the words, “This is Satan, the source of tyranny.”
Another anti-American music video which appeared on Irinn-TV on August 12, 2004, produced by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, was titled “The Scheme of Thais,” referring to a Greek courtesan who joined Alexander the Great and persuaded him to set fire to Persepolis. The video shows the Statue of Liberty as the incarnation of Thais, calling her a “she demon” and “the anti-Christ.” The Statue of Liberty morphs into a skeleton with American flag eyes, with a voice in the background singing: “America, Enemy of God…America the mad demon.” As the U.S. flag burns the song continues, with the words “light the pure flames to destroy the serpent…America is the enemy of God…America is the mad demon…O men of the seven continents, awake! awake! Light the pure flames to destroy the serpents; This impure octopus with seven heads…must be killed.”
A “seven-headed serpent” or “dragon” is the name frequently used by Iranian government institutions for America. Calling the U.S. “one of the heads of the seven headed dragon,” Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke to Iranian students on live TV on February 3, 2004, and responded to President Bush's calling Iran the “worlds primary state sponsor of terror” by boasting, “Bush is the fifth U.S. president to want to uproot the Iranian nation…but he will be as successful as Jimmy Carter, [Ronald] Reagan, [George] Bush senior and [Bill] Clinton.”
Iranian TV devotes extensive coverage to personal attacks on President Bush, often comparing him to Hitler. This summer and fall, a series titled “The New Fascism” was aired on IRINN-TV. Images from the series depict President Bush with a swastika in the background. An episode on October 17 argued that President Bush's war on terror is similar to Hitler's war policy: “In his book Mein Kampf, Mr. Hitler explicitly referred to this, and when Goebbels wrote the Nazi party's platform, Hitler said to him: '…Either the people are with you or against you.' This is exactly what Mr. Bush is saying today.”
Iranian strategic expert 'Ali' Askari was interviewed about the series on September 14, 2004, and stated, “We have seen that 9/11 was a domestic need of the American administration… Either the Americans were involved in this matter, or they let the events of 9/11 develop as they developed.” Iranian political expert Manouchehr Mohammadi added, “There are many events like these in American history. It has been proven that the Japanese military attack on Pearl Harbor…was planned…with the authorization…of U.S. President Roosevelt…They needed a pretext such as this to enter WWII…The exact same thing happened on 9/11. This [tactic] is not used only by Hitler and George Bush.”
To mark the 26th anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution, on February 10, 2005, a contest covered by IRINN-TV was held in Tehran, to see who could burn the best effigy of President Bush. It was part of the Revolution anniversary parade, and as the reporter covering it explained, “this contest was held in response to the U.S. President's babbling.” Effigy makers were shown presenting their effigyies to judges, while those in the audience yelled, “Death to America.”
When viewing Iranian TV, one gets the impression that the Iranian governing mullahs are mobilizing for confrontation with the U.S. For instance, on February 10, 2005, on Jaam-E-Jam1, deputy head Iranian Revolutionary Guards General Zol-Qadr said: “The events in the Middle East…were a great opportunity for us to get to know the American methods, strategies, doctrines, and tactics…Americans are our greatest security challenge. Thus, we have been able to prepare for a confrontation with the American threat. We even know the American commanders' state of mind, and this is very influential in wars. Their behavioral patterns are well known to us, and this increases our maneuvering ability against the American threat. I can tell the Iranian public, with full confidence, that there is no threat that our armed forces cannot identify and confront with all their might.”
Iranian threats against America including terror attacks on U.S. soil, have been detailed in past columns. These threats continue almost daily on Iranian-government controlled TV.
Steven Stalinsky is the Executive Director of the Middle East Media Research Institute.