For those disappointed by recent suggestions that the slogan “Death to America” (often translated by the Iranian press as “Down with America!” might be retired in the light of thawed relations with the “Great Satan”, hope comes in the form of an announcement Wednesday by Tasnim News — Iran is to host the first ever, international Down With the U.S. Great Awards Festival.
According to the event’s website, participants in the festival are invited to send their interpretations of the theme, in the form of photos, caricatures, blogs, websites, documentaries, articles or graphics.
And while most competitors will be inspired by a natural desire to creatively express their thoughts on this important topic, the organizers of the Down With the U.S. Great Awards Festival have sweetened the pot with a 100,000,000 rials (around $3,000) cash prize offer.
The competition, sponsored by the Owj Media Art Organization, Tasnim News Agency, Cyber Hezbollah, Nasr TV Channel, Basharat Organization and Saraj Cyberspace Organization, even offers competitors several themes to choose from:
* Why it is said: “Down With America”?
* Why US is not reliable?
* US & Breaking Promises
* US & Self-Conceit
* US & Human Rights
* US & Oppression
* US & Islamophobia
* US & Iranophobia
* US & Global Zionism
* US & Neocolonialism
* US & Democracy
* US & Dictatorship
* US & Freedom of Speech
* US & 99% Movement (Wall Street)
The overall winners will be announced in a special ceremony on December 7, 2013.
Why has the competition been organized now, in the wake of what appeared to be positive signs from the first round of nuclear talks last week?
The answer lies with the Supreme Leader, who has taken offense at a remark by chief nuclear negotiator Wendy Sherman — or is using the remark by Sherman as a way to step back from increased engagement with the US.
Ayatollah Khamenei’s office tweeted on Tuesday:
A message so impolite, absurd, beyond diplomatic conventions, and loaded with silly pride by the US https://t.co/wZSJPFVNgT
— khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) October 22, 2013
Khamenei’s apparent step back from the precipice of US-Iran engagement goes deeper than mere offense at Sherman’s admittedly ill-timed comments. It is a question of whether the Supreme Leader is willing to instigate or allow others to instigate a sea-change in the Islamic Republic’s ideology.
This position was reflected in statements made earlier this month by Ali Saeedi, Khamenei’s representative to the Revolutionary Guards, who asked “whether eliminating the ‘Death to America’ chant is part of the fixed or changing principles” of the Islamic Republic.
Saeedi answered his own rhetorical question by saying that, “Eliminating the ‘Death to America’ chant is part of the changing principles.”
So while Saeedi was willing to admit that the Islamic Republic’s stance regarding the US is not immutable, he made clear, “The change of tactics and methods can only take shape at the hands of the Supreme Leader of the time.”
So, for now at least, the Supreme Leader is not going to instigate that change of tactics and methods and eliminate “Down With America”.
Far from it — the International Down With The US Festival seeks to give the impression that Iran’s ideology is not limited to the borders of the Islamic Republic.
The quote at the top of the Festival’s English-language) website? “Today the US is a threat to international peace and security. So the slogan ‘Down with America’ is not exclusively for our nation” — Imam Khamenei