Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s administration has conducted a poll and found that a majority approves of establishing relations with the US and supports his efforts.
According to an article written by Fereshteh Ghazi in the Iranian website Rooz, made up mostly of exiled Iranian journalists and based in France, Iranian cleric Mohsen Gharavian said polls conducted on Iran-US relations showed that Rouhani’s talks with the US are in line with the wishes of the people.
Gharavian is a student of the leading hardline cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi.
Gharavian said that the majority of clerics in the city of Qom, Iran’s center for Shia study, supports the president’s outreach efforts with the US.
Ghazi wrote that the Alef website affiliated with conservative MP Ahmad Tavakoli announced that the results of the poll showed that between 80 percent and 90% of Iranians want to give relations between the two countries a chance, and that the 10% to 20% who do not want any relations agree to end the “death to US” chants during Friday prayers.
“The majority of people supports the new diplomatic effort of the government and the establishment of relations with the US. Those people who view this latest poll to be against the views of Ayatollah Khomeini and the foundations of the revolution know that they are merely attributing their personal views to Khomeini,” Gharavian told Rooz.
He went on to say that instead of saying “death to America,” the chant could be changed to “death to arrogance.”
Gharavian said that Khomeini had also used the term arrogance. “His criteria was arrogance and oppression. If America is the symbol of arrogance and oppression, then Ayatollah Khomeini’s words include it. When people of Iran chant the slogan, they really mean arrogance.”
He also told the paper that the chant is not directed toward the American people but toward their government.
However, some clerics and Iranians oppose ending the use of the “death to US” chant.
Salman Sima, an exiled Iranian currently living in Canada and a member of the Iranian Liberal Students and Graduates organization, was a student political activist who had been detained in Iran before fleeing the country. He was a promising student in Iran, banned from continuing his education at Azad University.
He was first arrested in 2008 and was transferred to section 209 of Evin Prison, spending 34 days in solitary confinement.
After the 2009 presidential elections, he helped organize the Green Movement protests, evading arrest for awhile, but finally being detained for a second time, spending nearly 100 days in jail with over 40 in solitary confinement. Sima was eventually released after he went on a hunger strike.
Sima was arrested for a third time during the street protests that marked the anniversary of the 2009 election and he was transferred to Evin Prison's 2A ward, which belongs to the Iranian Republican Guard.
Sima told The Jerusalem Post
that the "Iranian people seek to have a respectful relationship with all the countries of the world." During the Green Movement protests that erupted after the 2009 presidential elections, "not once did we hear 'Death to America' and 'Death to Israel' chants," he said.
"If the improvement of the relationship between the USA and Iran leads to the Islamic Republic giving up making an atomic bomb, I would be very happy," he said qualifying that it depends "if" Iran is willing to give up its program.
The sanctions have forced Iran to retreat, he said, but he notes that the issue of human rights "should not be forgotten."
"Hostility with the West, and in particular with the US, has been one of the pillars of the Iranian regime. Certainly, it is a source of happiness when any of these pillars collapses, but there exist concerns that the Islamic Republic, in order to lessen the pressure and the sanctions, is engaging in deceptive measures," he said.
"I am deeply suspicious of the Islamic Republic. I fear they have bought time, and that they have deceived the international community so that it can make their bomb. It is too early to be optimistic and festive," he warned.
Meanwhile, anti-US billboards began appearing in Tehran, and they have been taken down, said a spokesman for the Tehran Municipality on Saturday, according to the official Iranian IRNA news agency.