Iran on Saturday held the heavily choreographed pageant of anti-Americanism that marks the anniversary of the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran amid worsening relations with the Trump administration and uncertainty about the fate of its nuclear agreement with world powers.
This year’s anniversary was commemorated under cloudy, polluted skies in Tehran, where elderly enthusiasts of Iran’s theocracy took to the streets despite air quality that made it difficult for many to take deep breaths.
Thousands gathered on the campus of the former U.S. Embassy, dubbed a “den of espionage,” where a ballistic missile was displayed. News agencies described it as a Sejil surface-to-surface missile with a range of 1,200 miles.
Iran has paraded its missile capability in recent months in a show of defiance to President Trump, whose administration has said Tehran’s development of ballistic missiles violates the spirit of the nuclear agreement it signed in 2015.
Last month, Trump declined to certify Iran’s compliance with the agreement — under which Iran curbed uranium enrichment in exchange for relief from international sanctions. Trump’s decision did not undo the agreement, which European countries and Iran continue to support, but allows Congress to decide whether to reimpose certain sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Hundreds of Iranian militant students took 52 Americans hostage at the embassy for 444 days to protest Washington’s refusal to hand over the Western-backed shah, who was deposed in the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Placards reminded of U.S.-supported coups in Latin American and Asian countries.
The commemorations took place under tight security managed by Iranian police and the hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Iranians who gathered at the embassy echoed the defiant words of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who this week called the United States Iran’s “No. 1 enemy.”
Hasan Shorjeh, a retired 65-year-old teacher carrying a “Down with America” placard, said there was no point in respecting the nuclear deal if the United States didn’t hold up its end of the agreement.
“As the supreme leader said, American administrations have always been cunning and hostile, so I don’t see any solution for the disputes,” Shorjeh said. “The enmity with America will continue and our resistance will as well. I don’t see any solution in my child’s lifetime, let alone mine.”
Roghaye Riyahi, a 35-year-old woman wearing a black chador, said she had come to the embassy to mark the takeover for the past 20 years.
“I think that even if I live 120 years, the enmity with America will not be buried — at least not as long as America doesn’t change its hostile policy toward Iran,” Riyahi said. “In fact, today, Trump the madman has contributed to our celebration of the takeover and more people have taken part — gloriously and wholeheartedly.”
But beyond the stage-managed celebrations, some Iranians expressed hope for better relations with the United States and opposition to the orchestrated anti-American protests.
“I wish the hostility between the two countries would end as soon as possible because we are suffering from it,” said Hasan Mahmoudi, a 50-year-old shopkeeper near the embassy. “We want to have normal relations with America and foreign investment here to create jobs for our educated youth.”
Special correspondent Mostaghim reported from Tehran and Times staff writer Bengali from Kabul, Afghanistan.
Follow @SBengali on Twitter