HUNDREDS of Iranians vowed to destroy Israel and chanted “death to America” during huge parades to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.
Angry crowds burned US flags in Tehran as the government showed off ballistic missiles in defiance of Washington’s efforts to curb’s its military power.
AFP or licensors12 Iranians burn US flags during commemorations of the 40th anniversary of Islamic Revolution in Tehran
Soldiers, students, clerics and black-clad women holding small children thronged streets across Iran to celebrate the 1979 Islamic uprising that still haunts the West.
On February 11, 1979, Iran's army declared its neutrality, paving the way for the fall of US-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
Today, crowds defied cold rainy weather and carried Iranian flags while shouting "Death to Israel, Death to America," trademark chants of the revolution.
Yadollah Javani, the Revolutionary Guards' deputy head for political affairs, said Iran would demolish cities in Israel to the ground if the United States attacked.
After decades of hostility with the United States, Tehran vowed to expand its military power despite mounting pressure from hostile countries.
Death to Israel, Death to America
Ballistic missile capabilities were on show during the main march, including the Qadr F, a ground-to-ground missile with a 1,220 mile range, according to Tasnim news agency.
During a speech in Tehran Azadi square, President Hassan Rouhani insisted the regime would continue to develop its weaponry despite international pressures.
He said: “We have not asked and will not ask for permission to develop different types of …missiles and will continue our path and our military power.”
The large turnout in state-sponsored rallies, in which US and Israeli flags were burned, came as Iranians face mounting economic hardships many blame on the country's clerical leaders.
Pictures on social media showed some people also demonstrating against corruption, unemployment and high prices.
Reuters12 Crowds chanted 'Death to Israel, Death to America' during the demonstrations
AP:Associated Press12 A woman holds a cut out of US President Donald Trump – who pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal
AP:Associated Press12 A woman holds up a portrait of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei while making the victory sign during a rally
AFP or licensors12 Entire families braved rainy weather to celebrate on the streets of Tehran
One protest sign read: "Our presence in the 40th anniversary of the revolution is to show our support for the Islamic Republic.
"But it does not mean we support corruption of some officials and their betrayal of the oppressed people."
News agency Reuters could not independently verify the pictures.
Last year, Iran cracked down on protests over poor living standards that posed the most serious challenge to its leadership since a 2009 uprising over disputed elections.
Prices of basic foodstuffs have soared since President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the 2015 nuclear deal last year and reimposed sanctions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted: "I bow in admiration to Iran's resilient people who – despite hardships and grievances – today poured into streets by the millions to mark 40th anniv of their Islamic Revolution, which some in the US wished would never come.
"US should take note: REAL Iranians never succumb to diktats."
What is the Iran nuclear deal?
- The deal was an agreement between the Islamic Republic and a group of world powers aimed at scrapping the Middle Eastern country's nuclear weapons programme.
- It saw Iran agree to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium by 98 per cent.
- According to the deal, Iran would receive relief from the US, European Union, and the United Nations Security Council on all nuclear-related economic sanctions.
- The agreement was reached on July 14, 2015, and the world powers signed it in Vienna.
- However, on May 8, 2018, President Trump announced the US will withdraw from the agreement – which he has repeatedly called "insane" and ridiculous".
- The America's withdrawal from the agreement mean crippling economic sanctions will once again be placed on Iran – further heightening tensions between the two countries.
AP:Associated Press12 The Iranian regime has vowed to continue developing its military despite international pressure
AFP or licensors12 Iranians hold up signs showing the country's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, left, and his predecessor and Islamic Revolution founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
Getty – Contributor12 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani makes a speech during a rally in Tehran
AP:Associated Press12 Thousands of Iranians attend a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the 1979 revolution in Azadi square in Tehran
In January, Rouhani said Iran was facing its worst economic crisis since the Shah was toppled.
But he remained defiant on Monday, as Iranians recalled the end of a monarch who catered to the rich.
"Iranian people have and will have some economic difficulties but we will overcome the problems by helping each other," he said.
Washington and the Arab world have viewed Iran with great suspicion since the Islamic Revolution, fearing their radical ideology would inspire militants across the Middle East.
Today, the United States, its Arab allies and Israel are trying to counter Tehran's growing influence in the region, where it has proxies in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
Iran also has vast clout in Iraq, where Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the overseas arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guards overseas division, was frequently photographed guiding Shi'ite militias in the war against ISIS.
"Defending the system and religion are inseparable," Soleimani was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency during celebrations in his hometown.
Why are there tensions between the US and Iran?
- Before the 1979 Iranian revolution, Iran was one of America's biggest allies in the troubled Middle East and was led by the US-backed Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.
- However, since the seismic revolt, Iran has been led by murderous Islamic fundamentalists and tensions with Washington have remained ever since.
- On November 4, 1979, the Iranian regime took 52 US diplomats hostage in response to President Carter’s administration allowing Iran’s deposed former leader into America.
- The hostage crisis lasted for 444 days and also included a failed rescue mission which cost the lives of eight US soldiers.
- In April 1980, the US ended diplomatic relations with Iran – a break which lasted for more than 30 years.
- In April 1983, Washington blamed the Iranian-funded terror group Hezbollah for carrying out a bombing attack on the American embassy in Beirut, Lebanon.
- The assault, carried out amid a brutal civil war in Lebanon, killed 17 Americans.
- In November of that year, two truck bombs in Beruit killed 241 US peace keepers. The US again blamed Hezbollah for the incident.
- The Clinton White House, in 1995, placed a total embargo on Iran meaning US companies could not trade with the country.
- And in 2002, George W Bush included the Islamic Republic in his famous “Axis of evil” speech along with North Korea and Iraq.
AFP or licensors12 Iranians celebrated the 1979 fall of US-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
AP:Associated Press12 Thousands of people took to the rain-soaked streets of Tehran to celebrate
Getty – Contributor12 Woman dressed in black wave Iranian flags at a rally in the capital