Crowds gather in Iran to mark 40 years since revolution
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani defended his country’s missile programme and said “enemy” plots against it would fail in an address to crowds in Tehran celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution on Monday.
"The presence of people today on the streets all over Islamic Iran... means that the enemy will never reach its evil objectives," Rouhani told a rally in the capital’s Azadi square where thousands braved freezing rain.
Some in the crowd waved replica missiles. Others posed for photos with a life-size cutout of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the once-exiled cleric whose return to Iran on 1 February 1979 led to the fall of the Shah 10 days later.
The AFP news agency reported that routes leading to the square were packed with people as revolutionary anthems and slogans played from loudspeakers.
Rouhani said Iran was now much stronger than when it fought a near-decade-long war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq during the 1980s, and rejected calls by the US and others for restrictions to its missile programme.
“We have not, and will not request permission from anyone for increasing our defensive power and for building all kinds of... missiles," he told the crowd, according to AFP.
"Today the whole world should know that the Islamic Republic of Iran is considerably more powerful than in the days of the war."
On the streets, photos showed some in the crowd burning Israeli and American flags and carrying banners with anti-American slogans, including “Death to America”, which has long been a rallying cry for supporters of the revolution.
On Friday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei defended the slogan and said it would not be dropped until the US dropped its hostility to Tehran. Khamenei said the slogan was directed at American leaders and not the American people.
Relations between Washington and Tehran have deteriorated since US President Donald Trump withdrew his country from a nuclear deal which had seen Iran give up its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of international sanctions.
Others in the crowd on Monday carried an effigy of Trump carrying a sign reading "I am not bound by any commitment", a reference to Washington's withdrawal from the nuclear agreement.
In a tweet posted in English and Farsi, Trump said that "the Iranian people deserve a much brighter people" and shared an image which described the revolution as "40 years of failure".
In comments reported by the IRNA state news agency, Yadollah Javani, the Revolutionary Guards’ deputy head for political affairs, said on Monday that Iran would attack cities in Israel if it was attacked by the US.
"The United States does not have the courage to shoot a single bullet at us despite all its defensive and military assets," Javani was quoted as saying. “But if they attack us, we will raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground.”
This month’s celebrations come with Iranians facing rising living costs and economic hardship as a consequence of the latest US sanctions.
State television on Monday was dominated by coverage of the anniversary celebrations, with rallies taking place in other towns and cities around the country.