Iran's president Monday insisted "enemy" plots against the country would fail, as vast crowds marked 40 years since the Islamic revolution at a time of heightened tensions with the United States.
In a speech at Tehran's Azadi Square, President Hassan Rouhani dismissed U.S. efforts to isolate Iran, saying U.S. sanctions could not break the Islamic Republic. "The presence of people today on the streets all over Islamic Iran ... means that the enemy will never reach its evil objectives," he said in his speech.
Waving Iranian flags, chanting "Death to America" and burning U.S. and Israeli flags, hundreds of thousands of people poured into the streets across Iran yesterday, marking the date that's considered victory day in the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
On Feb. 11 that year, Iran's military stood down after days of street battles, allowing the revolutionaries to sweep across the country while the government of U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi resigned and the Islamic Republic was born.
State TV showed large crowds defying frigid weather and carrying Iranian flags while chanting "Death to Israel, Death to America," trademark chants of the revolution that ousted the United States' most important ally in the Middle East. One banner read: "Much to the dismay of America, the revolution has reached its 40th year."
Every year, the anniversary festivities start on Feb. 1, the day Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned home from France after 14 years in exile to become the supreme leader as Shiite clerics took power, and continue for 10 days, peaking on Feb. 11.
The large turnout in state-sponsored rallies came as Iranians face rising prices, food shortages and high inflation that have triggered waves of protests. U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers last year and reimposed sanctions on Tehran, dealing a blow to the country's economy. Iranian officials said the move amounted to "economic warfare."
A senior commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guards said yesterday that Tehran will not withdraw its forces from the region, dismissing U.S. calls that Iranian regional influence should be curbed. "The enemy cannot ask us to leave the region. They must leave the region," said Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards. "We will help any Muslim anywhere in the world," he added.
The United States and its Arab allies have eyed Iran with great suspicion since the Iranian Revolution swept the Shah from power in 1979, fearing Khomeini's radical ideology would inspire militants across the Middle East. Today, Iran enjoys influence through proxies in the region. From Syria to Yemen to Lebanon, the standoff between Washington and its allies and Tehran continues to shape events.
Following popular uprisings in the Arab world, mostly associated with the Arab Spring, Iran found an opportunity to increase its influence and shape its policies more actively. Besides aiding the Syrian regime through Shiite militias, Tehran has been involved in Lebanon's domestic policies. Iran is waiting for Lebanon to show a desire to accept its military assistance, Iran's foreign minister said on Sunday, reiterating an offer of support to the U.S.-backed Lebanese military. Yemen is another example of Iran's policy. Then there is neighboring Iraq, where most politicians have received aid from the Iranian regime.