When Iranian crowds chant “Death to America” during rallies in Tehran, Americans shouldn’t take it personally, according to Iran's president Hassan Rouhani.
Speaking in an interview with 60 Minutes due to be broadcast on Sunday, Rouhani explained that the famous Friday ritual is a reaction to previous Washington policy decisions that hurt Iran.
Despite the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, many in the United States are still convinced that Iran, which is ultimately led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, remains bent on their country's destruction.
Opponents have often cited the regular appearance of chanting anti-American crowds as evidence of Tehran's true intentions, but Rouhani attempted to reassure his CBS interviewer Steve Kroft and the wider audience.
"This slogan that is chanted is not a slogan against the American people. Our people respect the American people," he insisted, according to AFP.
"The Iranian people are not looking for war with any country,” continued Rouhani.
"But, at the same time, the policies of the United States have been against the national interests of Iranian people — it's understandable that people will demonstrate sensitivity to this issue,” he said.
"When the people rose up against the Shah, the United States aggressively supported the Shah until the last moments. In the eight-year war with Iraq, the Americans supported Saddam [Hussein],” explained the Iranian president, adding, "People will not forget these things. We cannot forget the past, but at the same time our gaze must be towards the future."
Rouhani, despite his comments, has personally presided over “Death to America” chants in Iran, as shown in a video released by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office last Independence Day.
Khamenei has also said he agrees with the “Death to America” chants, claiming the goal of the United States is “to put the people against the system."