November 6, 2010

Israel, the U.S. and the Arab World

Iranians Stage Mass Protest Against 'Great Satan" USA

November 4, 2010

Thousands of Iranians chanted "Death to America" as they staged Thursday a mass protest against the "Great Satan" to mark the 31st anniversary of the capture of the American embassy by Islamist students.

Tehran, meanwhile, welcomed Washington's decision to list shadowy rebel group Jundallah as a foreign terrorist organisation, saying it was the "right" move, but reiterated its allegation that the US supports the Sunni network.

Iran annually on November 4 marks the anniversary of the capture of the US embassy by Islamist students in Tehran in 1979, months after the Islamic revolution which toppled the US-backed shah.

On Thursday, waving Iranian flags and carrying anti-US banners alongside posters of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the largely young crowd also shouted anti-Israel slogans outside the now closed US embassy.

Banners saying "I will give my life for the leader (Khamenei)" and another quoting Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as saying, "If you want to shout, shout at the US", were displayed at the embassy compound, an AFP correspondent reported.

The embassy has remained shuttered and the US and Iran have had no diplomatic ties since then.

The students, who took 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days, said they were responding to Washington's refusal to hand over the deposed shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Ezatollah Zaragami, the keynote speaker at the rally and one of the 1979 hostage takers, hit out at US President Barack Obama.
"Obama has acted very weakly and badly when it comes to his foreign policy," Zaragami, who now heads Iranian state media, told the cheering crowd.

"The reason for that is that he is using an array of advisers who are exhausted bureaucrats."
The organisers of the anti-US demonstration, in their final declaration, said that Iran considers "America as the Great Satan and enemy number one".

Over the past three decades, many Iranians who led the storming of the embassy have however become severe critics of the regime they helped to establish.

This year's anti-US protest, one of the cornerstones of the Islamic regime, came days before expected nuclear talks which will see US and Iranian officials sitting at the same table for discussions on Tehran's controversial atomic programme.

World powers led by US suspect Iran's atomic drive is aimed at making weapons, a charge denied by Tehran.

US-Iranian animosity rose markedly during the tenure of former US president George W. Bush, who lumped Iran as part of an "axis of evil" along with North Korea and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

The bitterness between the two nations has risen further since 2005, when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office. The hardliner repeatedly launches anti-US tirades.

Iran's Khamenei, the all-powerful leader of the Islamic republic, has also made it clear he still distrusts the United States despite Bush successor Obama's initial diplomatic overtures towards Tehran.

On Wednesday, Khamenei praised the embassy takeover 31 years ago and expressed his distrust of US leaders.
"This act is the symbol of courage and intrepidness of the young revolutionary generation against the grandeur of America, because the capture of the den of spies (US embassy) destabilised the power of America," he told a gathering of students on the eve of the anniversary.
Not all words directed Thursday at the US were hostile, however, with the Islamic republic welcoming a Washington decision to label Jundallah (Soldiers of God) as a foreign terrorist group.
"Fighting terrorism is a general responsibility of all nations and the Islamic Republic of Iran in this regard considers placing (Abolmalek) Rigi's terrorist group on the US national list of terror organisations as a move in the right direction," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.
He, however, reiterated Iranian accusations that Washington supports the group.

The United States on Wednesday officially designated Jundallah a foreign terrorist organization, blaming it for a series of attacks in Iran.
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