Farrakhan Does Tehran, Chides U.S.
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Iran’s true believers are sticking with the mullahs’ Pavlovian response to President Trump’s newly reimposed sanctions. Increasingly, however, many Iranians no longer are.
On Sunday, Tehran flew in Louis Farrakhan to help spread its go-to “It’s all America’s fault” message. And the Nation of Islam leader played his role like a violin — even flaunting foreign-language skills.
“Death to … ” Minister Farrakhan intoned in Farsi, addressing a Tehran University audience. “America,” answered the obedient crowd.
That chant has been an Iranian staple since the seizure of the American Embassy 39 years ago. So to celebrate the anniversary of the American hostage taking, while also marking the re-imposition of American sanctions, the regime asked Minister Farrakhan to join in. The man who recently professed to be “anti-termite,” referring to Jews, also led cheers of “Death to Israel,” the country the regime wants off the map.
Along the years, Minister Farrakhan cozied up to Libya’s Muammar Khadafy, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and other American enemies. A frequent visitor to Tehran, he looked natural Sunday next to former Revolutionary Guards chief Moshen Rezaee, who recently threatened a violent response to United States sanctions.
“The American government is plotting against you every day,” Minister Farrakhan said in his speech at the university. “Because it is impossible to change the way of thinking of Islamic Iran, they never sleep and are always working to create an internal enemy in Iran.”
Fine. Minister Farrakhan’s amen corner, including followers like Linda Sarsour, may fall for this distorted thinking. And his regime-friendly message may ring true for many Iranians as well. But clearly not all of them.
Iranians now increasingly dismiss the notion that the sole cause of their problems is the Great Satan. Many, apparently, have no interest in the ritual burning of the Stars and Stripes.
Consider: To mark Sunday’s hostage-taking anniversary, the authorities painted floors at entrances to universities, government offices and hotels with Israeli and American flags. Walking in, people were called on to trample them, using their feet to show disdain to the enemy (a common Arabic practice).
Guess what? “Many young men and women refused to walk on the American and Israeli flags and found ways to go around them,” reports Masih Alinejad.
Ms. Alinejad is the Iranian-born, Brooklyn-based author of “The Wind In my Hair,” a best-seller about the battle she inspired against Iranian laws mandating traditional Islamic head cover for women. Like many in her homeland, she’s leery of the newly re-imposed sanctions, but, she says, people are nonetheless refusing to join in “Death to America” chants.
Her Iranian social media followers, she told me, sent her several video clips showing students actually going out of their way to sidestep the flags. Posted on her Instagram account and narrated in Farsi, one video received 1 million hits. Even for Ms. Alinejad, whose social media posts are widely followed in Iran, this is an unusually large number.
“This is a new phenomenon,” she says. “Everyone I talk to is worried about the economic impact of the sanctions,” and yet “people are refusing to buy into the regime’s talking points.”
Given a lack of reliable data, it’s hard to quantify just exactly how many Iranians are sick of the “Death to” chants, compared to those standing by the flag burnings. But economic hardship in Iran, which started long before America walked out on the President Obama team’s nuclear deal and started threatening sanctions, has brought regime opponents to the streets.
Poverty-stricken remote villagers, taxi and truck drivers, environmentalists, women’s-rights supporters, even upscale, traditionally regime-supporting merchants at the Tehran bazaar all now chant against their theocratic rulers. They cite corruption, mismanagement, involvement in foreign wars and oppression at home rather than faulting Israel or America.
Sure, some will continue to scapegoat America. For the many Iranians disenchanted with the regime, though, sanctions can reinforce a reality: The Islamic Republic’s revolutionary ideology is fast taking them to nowhere. They realize another truth, too: Their real oppressors aren’t Israeli or American — but the clerical regime and fellow travelers like Louis Farrakhan.
This column first appeared in the New York Post.