New "Death to America" graffiti has appeared, disappeared, and reappeared on the walls of the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran in recent days, according to reports and photographs published by Iranian media.
Graffiti reading "Death To America 2015" had appeared recently in the Iranian capital at a time when hard-liners are emphasizing that the nuclear deal reached between Tehran and world powers will not end their hostility toward the United States.
The reported removal of the graffiti from the walls of the former U.S. Embassy and other locations in Tehran raised eyebrows among many Iranians and Iran watchers who have grown accustomed to state-commissioned murals and other public art with anti-American messages.
Fardanews.com, which over the weekend posted pictures showing a man painting over the graffiti, said the move was part of an effort to keep Tehran clean.
"In recent days an interesting event has been happening in Tehran, and that is the removal of 'Death to America' slogans from the streets of the city," the report said.
"This morning the work reached the walls of the former U.S. Embassy," the report said, using the term "den of spies," which has been used by officials to refer to the former diplomatic compound where anti-American artwork is displayed.
The report by Fardanews.com, which is seen as close to Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Qailbaf, was reposted by many other news sites, including the semiofficial Mehr News agency.
It sparked criticism from hard-liners, including Iran's Student Basij Organization, which accused the United States of "crimes against humanity" and said that chanting "Death to America" is not only the "right" of the Iranian people, but also the duty of Muslims and all people.
The group issued a statement aimed at those who support better ties with the United States.
"If the [nuclear] agreement will not become another reason for the nation to chant 'Death to America,' it will [definitely] not be the reason to eliminate [the slogan]," the statement said.
The website Seratnews.ir asked whether the clean-up efforts were tied to the nuclear agreement reached between Tehran and world powers in July that would limit Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.
"Even if this is a spontaneous move by the people, it seems that officials should explain whether there are rules for writing or erasing these slogans," the conservative website said.
Officials have not publicly commented on the issue.
Finally, on September 1, Fardanews.com said the "Death to America" slogans are back on the walls of the former U.S. Embassy, but this time they did not mention any specific year.
The phrase is regularly chanted at state-organized events and rallies, including Friday Prayers and the anniversaries of the 1979 takeover of U.S. Embassy in Tehran following the Islamic Revolution.
Many Iranians believe the chant is empty and senseless rhetoric that needs to be shelved. But hard-line officials appear reluctant to scrap it.
Speaking at a September 1 press conference, the commander of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said that the United States remains "the Great Satan" despite the nuclear agreement.
"The hostility of the United States toward us has not ended or diminished," said Mohammad Ali Jafari, who accused Washington of using "other methods" to undermine the Islamic republic.
In another sign that hard-liners are not ready to drop the chant, the Tasnim news agency reported on September 2 that a plaque engraved with "100 titles" used by the founder of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, against the United States was unveiled by the Basij paramilitary force at the main gate of the former U.S. Embassy.
The report said that U.S. and Israeli flags were set on fire at the unveiling ceremony while participants chanted "Death To America," "Death to Israel," and "Compromise with Satan is betrayal of the Koran."