They chanted “Death to America” (although according to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei this should now be interpreted as “Death to Trump” and US leaders) and “Death to Israel” and burned the Stars and Stripes—the hundreds of thousands of Iranians who turned out for the nationwide rallies on February 11 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution essentially went through all their greatest hits.
It was on February 11, 1979, that Iran’s army declared its neutrality. The seminal moment burst the dam on the US-backed Shah and paved the way to the triumph of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Shi’ite cleric who led the revolution. The US thus lost its closest ally in the Middle East and gained an enemy.
Iranian state TV showed big, chanting crowds, marching through freezing rain in Tehran with those present including many women carrying small children, along with soldiers, students and clerics. The crowds waved Iranian flags and bore banners. One read: “Much to the dismay of America, the revolution has reached its 40th year.” President Hassan Rouhani did not mince his words in addressing the assembled, calling Donald Trump an "idiot". The Times reported that the crowds also chanted “Death to Theresa May”.
Difficult to gauge
Just how much discontent there is among Iran’s population of 81mn at the regime is difficult to gauge but some analysts think Trump’s attempt to throttle the Iranian economy—which has plunged Iran’s economy back into recession, brought soaring inflation, some food shortages and a depreciation of the Iranian rial running at more than 60%—to force concessions on Iran’s Middle East policies and activities is wrong-headed. It has involved unilaterally and somewhat dishonourably breaking a multilateral agreement struck after years of painstaking diplomacy—the 2015 Iran nuclear deal—and it is exposing ordinary Iranians to untold economic hardship. Far better, say some, to refocus the anger by going after Iran’s ruling elite with highly targeted political sanctions.
In the meantime, Trump’s Iran policy continues to draw the anger of both the hardliners—who exert their power and influence through the theocratic structure headed by the unelected supreme leader, which is empowered to vet and supervise the country’s parliamentary democracy—and the centrist, pragmatic camp led by Rouhani.
“We have not asked and will not ask for permission to develop different types of ... missiles and will continue our path and our military power,” news agencies reported Rouhani as saying in a speech before tens of thousands at Tehran’s Azadi (Freedom) Square.
Rouhani added in his address that the "enemy will never reach its evil objectives," vowing that Iran will defeat US sanctions. "The Iranian people have and will have some economic difficulties but we will overcome the problems by helping each other," he declared.
Trump, meanwhile, attempted to have the last word, saying in a tweet, sent out in English and Persian: "40 years of corruption. 40 years of repression. 40 years of terror. The regime in Iran has produced only #40YearsofFailure." "The long-suffering Iranian people deserve a much brighter future," he added.
Not surprisingly, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, always quick on the draw when it comes to the Twittersphere, did not let Trump have the last word, tweeting: “#40YearsofFailure to accept that Iranians will never return to submission. #40YearsofFailure to adjust US policy to reality. #40YearsofFailure to destabilize Iran through blood & treasure. After 40 yrs of wrong choices, time for @realDonaldTrump to rethink failed US policy.”