Iran: Protesters swarm former US Embassy in Tehran

Tens of thousands of demonstrators packed the streets Monday outside the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran in the biggest anti-American rally in years, a show of support for hard-line opponents of President Hassan Rouhani’s historic outreach to Washington.

Such protests occur every year outside the former embassy compound to mark the anniversary of the 1979 takeover following the Islamic Revolution. But the latest demonstration is the largest in years after calls by groups such as the powerful Revolutionary Guard for a major showing, including chants of “death to America” that some of Rouhani’s backers have urged halted.

iranantiamerica_small Iran: Protesters swarm former US Embassy in Tehran

The crowds also send a message to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who cautiously has backed Rouhani’s overtures to the U.S. and efforts to end the impasse with the West over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Opponents of thawing relations with the U.S. say they will not back down, opening the prospect of deeper internal rifts and tensions that could put pressure on Khamenei to reconsider his backing of Rouhani’s groundbreaking exchanges with the U.S.

In September, Rouhani accepted from a call from U.S. President Barack Obama following the annual U.N. General Assembly in New York, where U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks with Iran’s foreign minister. Ties between the two countries were severed after the embassy siege, which began a hostage crisis with 52 people held for 444 days.

Critics of the dialogue made their views immediately known, hurling insults and eggs at Rouhani’s entourage upon their return from New York. Late last month, huge banners appeared around Tehran depicting the U.S. as a sinister and deceitful adversary that seeks to weaken Iran. Tehran officials ordered the signs removed, but they appeared in poster form at the demonstration Monday outside the former embassy compound.

Protesters also stomped on images of Obama and the U.S. flag. Others carried well-known banners reading “We trample America under our feet” and “The U.S. is the Great Satan.” One image showed Obama in a wrestling uniform with Star of David earrings, symbolizing Israel.

On Sunday, Khamenei appeared to chide hard-liners by denouncing any attempts to undermine Iran’s nuclear negotiators. Talks with world powers are scheduled to resume Thursday in Geneva.

Diplomats “are on a difficult mission and nobody should weaken those who are on assignment,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state, as telling a group of students.

Iran seeks to have painful economic sanctions eased in exchange for concessions in its nuclear program to address concerns by the West, which fears Iran’s uranium enrichment could eventually produce weapons-grade material. Iran insists it only seeks reactors for energy and medical applications, but has not made public its possible confidence-building offers at the talks.

Outside the former embassy’s brick walls — covered with anti-U.S. murals — students carried a model of a centrifuge used in uranium enrichment. A slogan on it read: “Result of resistance against sanctions: 18,000 active centrifuges in Iran.”

Another banner quoted Khamenei: “The aim of sanctions is to make the Iranian nation desperate.”

Khamenei’s backing of Rouhani also puts him in an unfamiliar spot of having to reassure hard-liners he has not abandoned their views.

Khamenei on Sunday praised Iranian militant students who stormed the U.S. Embassy in 1979.

“Thirty years ago, our young people called the U.S. Embassy a ‘den of spies.’ … It means our young people were 30 years ahead of their time,” he said, a reference to a series of reports of U.S. eavesdropping on foreign leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

One Reply to “Iran: Protesters swarm former US Embassy in Tehran”

  1. Iran has consciously used sanctions to bludgeon its own
    people to make points with the global press. While its people can’t access
    capital, Iran offers a $3.6 billion credit line to Syria. While its people
    can’t find employment, Iran builds and operates 5,000 new centrifuges to enrich
    uranium and while hyperinflation wracks the economy, Iran dabbles in credit
    swaps to bolster its support for Hezbollah and now Hamas. Rouhani, a career
    hardliner, speaks of moderation, but ultimately Iran must demonstrate its
    commitment to advancing peace not by making demands on the world like it did
    under Ahmadinejad, but take steps to release political prisoners, halt public
    executions, restore open Internet access to social media, restore shuttered
    opposition media, prohibit the moral police from abusing women and step back
    from its support of foreign ventures in Syria. Economic sanctions can be
    quickly lifted if Iran’s leaders, especially Khamenei, took some of these
    steps, but I am not hopeful of such a change in direction, which is why these
    new sanctions are important to keep the pressure on. If you want to see what I
    mean, check out Rouhani's career highlights at http://www.hassan-rouhani.info. The
    only real long term solution to Iran is regime change either at the ballot box
    or through street demonstrations just like the rest of the Arab world.

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