Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that his infamous “death to America” chant should not to be taken literally, the Associated Press reported.
Khamenei made the claims Tuesday that when he uses the ominous chant, he is actually referring to America’s policies, not the country itself. According to the AP, Khamenei explained the meaning of the chant during a meeting with a group of Iranian students.
The Iranian leader said that the “aim of the slogan is not death to American people. The slogan means death to U.S. policies and arrogance,” the AP reported. Though Khamenei did add that the chant was popular among his fellow Iranians.
Mohammd Nahavandian, chief of staff for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, also said the chant is misinterpreted, according to a July New Yorker article.
“For them, it’s not the people of America, per se,” Nahavandian told the New Yorker about the phrase back in July. “For them, they are opposed to that sort of policy, that sort of attitude, that sort of arrogance. It’s not a nation. It’s a system of behavior.”
Despite the alleged misinterpretation of the chant, Khamenei has kept using anti-American rhetoric with repeated use of the slogan even after his government approved the nuclear deal with the United States. (RELATED: Iranian Ayatollah Khamenei Threatens America In New Video)
Khamenei’s clarification comes just before the Nov. 4 anniversary of the beginning of the Iranian hostage crisis — when Iranian revolutionaries stormed the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979. Each year, the Iranian government puts up anti-American poster around Tehran streets and squares to commemorate the anniversary, according to the AP.