Iranian marchers chant ‘Death to America’ on eve of US oil sanctions
Thousands of Iranians chanting "Death to America" rallied on Sunday to mark the anniversary of the seizure of the US Embassy during the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the imminent reimposition of US sanctions on Iran's oil sector.
Students attending the government-organised rally in the capital Tehran, broadcast live by state television, burned the Stars and Stripes, an effigy of Uncle Sam and pictures of President Donald Trump outside the former embassy compound.
Hardline students stormed the embassy on 4 November 1979, soon after the fall of the US-backed shah, and 52 Americans were held hostage there for 444 days. The two countries have been enemies ever since, with no diplomatic relations.
Anger and distrust of the US is surging again following Trump's decision to withdraw from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers despite Tehran's compliance with the agreement, which was negotiated under the Obama administration.
State media said millions turned out for rallies in towns and cities, swearing allegiance to the clerical establishment and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The figure could not be independently confirmed by Reuters.
Rallies are staged on the embassy takeover anniversary every year. Still, rancour is especially strong now after Trump's withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal and his sanctions on Tehran, the Associated Press said.
The deal brought about the lifting of most international financial and economic sanctions in return for Tehran curbing its disputed nuclear activity under UN surveillance.
Trump said the deal was weak and favoured Iran. The other signatories - Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China - remain committed to the accord.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the penalties set to return on Monday "are the toughest sanctions ever put in place on the Islamic Republic of Iran."
Interviewed on "Fox News Sunday," Pompeo said: "There's a handful of places where countries already have made significant reductions in their crude oil … and need a little more time to get to zero. And we're going to provide that to them." He did not elaborate.
Pompeo noted that oil sanctions would be coupled with financial sanctions involving "over 600 designations of individuals and companies in Iran."
Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Revolutionary Guards, addressed the crowd from the grounds of the former embassy, now known as the "den of spies".
He said "economic warfare" was a final bid by Washington to overthrow the Islamic republic after decades of failed attempts, AFP reported.
"With God's help and the resistance and perseverance of the pious and revolutionary people of Islamic Iran, this last weapon of the enemy - the economic war - which is accompanied by America's widespread media operation against the nation of Iran, will be defeated," Jafari said.
"Never threaten Iran," he warned US President Donald Trump, describing him as America's "strange president".
Iran is already in the grip of an economic crisis, and has seen sporadic protests in recent months as Iranian officials have tried to downplay the sanctions and their effects, AP said.
The restoration of US sanctions targeting Iran's oil sales and banking sector is part of an effort by Trump to force Iran to halt its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes outright, as well as its support for proxy forces in conflicts across the Middle East.
In a speech on Saturday, Khamenei said Trump's policies faced opposition around the world. "America's goal has been to re-establish the domination it had, but it has failed. America has been defeated by the Islamic Republic over the past 40 years," he said.