Iranian women light a US flag on fire outside the former US embassy in Tehran on Saturday. Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – As relations between Iran and the United States worsen under US President Donald Trump’s tougher stance towards the Islamic Republic, Iran declared that America remains its main enemy in a show of strength in its annual commemoration of the 1979 US embassy siege.
Crowds of thousands chanting ‘Death to America’ burned the US flag and beat and burned effigies of Trump in the Iranian capital.
A surface-to-surface missile was also put on display in Tehran, a Qadr-F according to Iran’s Tasnim news agency, reported to have a 2,000-kilometre range.
On November 4, 1979, a group of Iranian students took over the US embassy in Tehran and held 52 American diplomats and citizens hostage for 444 days after Washington refused to hand over the Shah. The break in diplomatic relations has continued to this day and relations have soured under Trump who has blasted the 2015 nuclear deal as one of the worst ever.
The US recently imposed more sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program and Trump refused to re-certify the nuclear deal last month. Iran has said it remains committed to the deal and United Nations monitors report the country is abiding by the agreement. Other parties of the deal, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany, have also expressed their continued commitment to the agreement and worry over Trump’s opposition.
“Trump’s policies against the people of Iran have brought them out into the streets today,” Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, said in an address to a rally in Tehran.
He described Trump as a “crazy individual who is taking others toward the direction of suicide,” Reuters reported.
A statement read out publicly on Saturday during the rallies said Iranians "see the criminal America as their main enemy and condemn the denigrating remarks of the hated US president against the great Iranian people and the Revolutionary Guards," AFP reported.
The United States last month imposed sanctions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) for support of terrorism but stopped short of declaring the group a terror organization.
The deputy head of the IRGC said American expectations that Iran would give up its military power are a “childish dream.”
Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, speaking at a rally in Qom, warned the US that, in the case of military action against Iran, American forces in the region would have to flee, according to Tasnim news.
Both Iran and the US are influential players in Iraq. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently drew Baghdad’s ire when he told “Iranian militias” in Iraq to “go home.”
The commander of Iran’s Quds force is a military advisor to Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi, a mainly Shiite armed force backed by Iran.
Iran was opposed to Kurdistan’s independence referendum, describing it as an American and Zionist plot.
On Saturday, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, chairman of Iran’s Expediency Council, warned Iraq to stay vigilant against foreign efforts to influence the Iraqi people and parliament, IRNA news agency reported.
Shahroudi made his comments in a meeting with a leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Humam Hamoudi. The two discussed expanding relations and cooperation.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told Tehran and Washington that Iraq would like to work with both of them, "but please don't bring your trouble inside Iraq. You can sort it anywhere else," Washington Post reported he said in an interview last month.
A replica missile on display in Tehran on Saturday. Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP