Iranians took to the streets Tuesday to mark the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, holding anti-American signs, burning U.S., British and Israeli flags and chanting “down with the U.S.” and “death to Israel.”
The marches came as President Hassan Rouhani vowed that his country would “forever” pursue what he described as peaceful nuclear research.
The Associated Press reported that hundreds of thousands of Iranians gathered in the capital of Tehran to mark the occasion and that similar rallies were seen in other Iranian cities.
Those demonstrating held up banners including the slogan, “We are ready for the great battle,” which Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency described as a reference to threats of military action against Iran. Other signs seen in news photos proclaimed, “Hey, America!! Be angry with us and die due to your anger! Down with U.S.A.” and “We stand up to the end.”
“We don’t trust America. All they want is to plunder our wealth,” a 20-year-old Islamic militia member told the French news agency Agence France-Presse.
The anti-American sentiments were voiced despite moves by the Obama administration to ease international sanctions on Iran and the reaching of an agreement in November over the country’s controversial nuclear program.
In his speech marking the 35th anniversary of the revolution, Rouhani – who is widely described in the media as a “moderate” – called the economic sanctions “brutal, illegal and wrong.” Reuters reported that Rouhani said countries in the region had nothing to fear from Iran.
“For the past 200 years, Iran hasn’t attacked or occupied another country, but the nation stands together to defend Iran in case of any threats,” Rouhani said.
Iran appears to have made a point of escalating a belligerent posture in recent days. On Monday, Iran test-fired two new domestically produced missiles.
Over the weekend, Iran announced that its warships in the Atlantic Ocean would for the first time travel close to U.S. maritime borders. Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic’s state television broadcast a documentary simulating attacks on an American aircraft carrier and Israeli cities.
On Friday, Iran’s parliament speaker called Israel a “cancer” of the region and accused the U.S. of hindering so-called Arab Spring revolutions.
In 1979, Iranians deposed their pro-Western leader Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and replaced him with a strict Islamic regime after which students seized the U.S. Embassy and held diplomats hostage for more than a year.