- The Ayatollah's Tuesday speech was greeted with cries of "Death to America"
- The slogan, which is based on the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, will stay, leader says
(CNN)"Death to America" just isn't what it used to be.
On Tuesday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made a speech to university students, to which they responded with shouts of "Death to America!"
That's nothing new in Iran, particularly if the Ayatollah is speaking.
But it's not a common way to refer to a country with which you have just concluded a deal to get international sanctions lifted, perhaps.
And what really was new was the convoluted statement the leader made attempting to redefine the meaning of the slogan.
Slogan 'backed by reason and wisdom'
Going back through more than half a century of U.S.-Iranian history, the leader said the slogan was justified and would stay.
But he added this, according to PressTV, the official Iranian broadcaster:
"The slogan 'death to America' is backed by reason and wisdom; and it goes without saying that the slogan does not mean death to the American nation; this slogan means death to the U.S.'s policies, death to arrogance."
In his tour of history, Khamenei included an American-backed coup in Iran in 1953 and the spying he said was done from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, which Iranian students and radicals took over in 1979. They held dozens of American Embassy workers hostage for more than a year.
Having completed his explanation, Khamenei announced, according to his official website, that he had proved his point.
"This slogan means death to the policies of the U.S. and arrogant powers," he said, "and this logic is accepted by every nation when explained in clear terms."
Khamenei's comments came on the eve of the 36-year anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. Embassy.
National day against 'Global Arrogance'
Iran's state-run news agency IRNA reported that demonstrators in Tehran marked the anniversary Wednesday by burning U.S. flags and making a statement declaring that the United States was Satan.
"We consider U.S. as Great Satan and we believe that fighting the arrogant powers is logical," it quoted the statement as reading.
The U.S. Embassy was known as the "Den of Espionage," IRNA reported.
A day earlier, the news agency reported that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had told the Cultural Revolution Supreme Council that the embassy takeover was considered Iran's second revolution.
"The U.S. embassy takeover formed the pillars of the country's independence and fighting against the arrogant power by the Islamic Revolution in Iran," it quoted him as saying.
The November 4 anniversary was referred to as the national day against the "Global Arrogance,'" it said.