Tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered outside the former US Embassy in Tehran on Monday in the biggest anti-American rally in years, a show of support for hard-line opponents of President Hassan Rouhani’s historic outreach to Washington.
Such protests occur every year outside the former embassy compound to mark the anniversary of the 1979 embassy takeover following the Islamic Revolution. But the size of latest demonstration is significant after calls by groups such as the powerful Revolutionary Guard for a major showing, including chants of “death to America” that some of Mr Rouhani’s backers have urged halted.
The crowds also sent a message to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who cautiously backed Mr Rouhani’s overtures to the US and efforts to end the impasse with the West over Tehran’s nuclear programme.
Opponents of thawing relations with the US say they will not back down, opening the prospect of deeper internal rifts and tensions that could put pressure on Ayatollah Khamenei to reconsider his backing of Mr Rouhani.
In September, Mr Rouhani accepted from a call from US President Barack Obama following the annual UN General Assembly in New York, where US Secretary of State John Kerry held talks with Iran’s foreign minister. Ties between the two countries were severed after the embassy siege, in which 52 people were held for 444 days.
Critics of the dialogue made their views immediately known, hurling insults and eggs at Rouhani’s entourage upon their return from New York. Late last month, huge banners appeared around Tehran depicting the US as a sinister and deceitful adversary. Tehran officials ordered the signs removed, but they appeared as posters at Monday’s demonstration.