Iranians take to streets to celebrate 1979 revolution

Hundreds of thousands gather in Tehran on 35th anniversary of Islamic overthrow of pro-Western Iranian shah

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani waves as he delivers a speech during a rally in Tehran's Azadi Square (Freedom Square) to mark the 35th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution on February 11, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/ATTA KENARE)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani waves as he delivers a speech during a rally in Tehran's Azadi Square (Freedom Square) to mark the 35th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution on February 11, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/ATTA KENARE)

TEHRAN (AFP) — Hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets Tuesday to mark the 35th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, buoyed by progress in nuclear talks with world powers and a modest easing of sanctions.

In Tehran, huge crowds thronged central Azadi square ahead of a speech by President Hassan Rouhani, the relative moderate who has reached out to the West since taking office in August.

Many of them railed against the United States, still regarded by the Iranians as the “Great Satan.”

“We don’t trust America. All they want is to plunder our wealth,” a 20-year-old Bassij (Islamic militia) member told AFP.

“We are fine with enduring the hardships (of international sanctions) because it will lead to the preservation of our rights,” he added as he joined the Tehran crowds.

The 35th anniversary of the revolution that ousted the US-backed shah — and set in motion Iran’s international isolation — comes as Tehran rides the wave of a landmark nuclear deal with major powers.

Under the November accord, Tehran agreed to curb parts of its atomic drive for six months in exchange for marginal relief from international sanctions.

Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers are due to resume nuclear talks next week in Vienna on a comprehensive agreement to allay international concerns Iran is seeking nuclear weapons capability.

In parallel, Iran also made progress over the weekend with the UN nuclear watchdog by agreeing to divulge information that could shed light on allegations of possible past weapons research.

Under a deal reached in Tehran with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran will explain its need for sophisticated detonators that could be used to initiate a nuclear chain reaction.

Rouhani, who has the support of reformists, insisted on Monday that Iran was “serious” about negotiations on a comprehensive deal with the P5+1 powers — The United States, China, Britain, France, Russia and Germany.

“Iran is ready to enter negotiations with the P5+1 to reach a comprehensive and final agreement,” he told Tehran-based foreign diplomats.

“We are serious in this regard,” he said.

Victory for Rouhani’s foreign policy

The November deal is seen as a victory for Rouhani’s foreign policy, after eight years of stalled talks and escalating sanctions under hardline predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Experts say Rouhani has made some headway in wooing world leaders by presenting a more moderate Iranian profile than did Ahmadinejad, but that this does not represent a radical shift in Iran’s ideologies and principles.

Rouhani has the support of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his charismatic foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, leads the talks with world powers.

Last week Khamenei renewed his confidence in Rouhani, saying critics of the government “must exercise tolerance.”

But hardliners argue that what Iran gained in the interim November deal does not offset what it has compromised in its nuclear activities.

Meanwhile the resumption of diplomatic ties with the United States, which severed ties with Tehran after the seizure of its embassy in the aftermath of 1979 Islamic revolution, is still a taboo for many in Iran.

Tehran on Monday summoned the Swiss ambassador to Iran, whose country represents American interests, to protest latest US measures imposed on companies and individuals for violating sanctions against Iran.

Zarif had recently warned the next round of negotiations would be difficult, particularly because Iranians do not trust the United States.

On Monday, Iran boasted that it had successfully tested two new missiles, while on Saturday it announced that it was sending naval ships toward the United States.

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