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Posted at: Feb 12, 2019, 8:07 AM; last updated: Feb 12, 2019, 8:07 AM (IST)

Iran flaunts army, taunts US

Dubai, February 11

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians marched and some burnt US flags on Monday to mark the 40th anniversary of the triumph of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Shi’ite cleric who toppled the Shah in an Islamic Revolution that rattles the West to this day.

On Feb 11, 1979, Iran’s army declared its neutrality, paving the way for the fall of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the United States’ closest ally in the Middle East. State TV showed crowds defying cold rainy weather and carrying Iranian flags while shouting “Death to Israel, Death to America,” trademark chants of the revolution which ousted the United States’ most important ally in the Middle East.

“Much to the dismay of America, the revolution has reached its 40th year,” read one banner. Soldiers, students, clerics and black-clad women holding small children thronged streets across Iran, many carrying portraits of Khomeini, who died in 1989, and Iran’s current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The large turnout in state-sponsored rallies came as Iranians face mounting economic hardships. Last year, Iran cracked down on protests over poor living standards in over 80 cities and towns that posed the most serious challenge to its clerical leadership since a 2009 revolt over disputed elections. Prices of bread, cooking oil and other staples have soared since President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the 2015 nuclear deal last year and reimposed sanctions.

In January, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran was facing its worst economic crisis since the Shah was toppled. But he remained defiant as Iranians recalled the end of a monarch who catered to the rich and unleashed secret police on dissenters.

In a speech at Tehran’s Azadi (Freedom) square, Rouhani said US efforts to isolate Iran would fail. “We will not let America become victorious… Iranian people have and will have some economic difficulties but we will overcome the problems by helping each other,” he said.

Marchers carried cardboard cut-outs of dogs. One had the face of Trump and the other the face of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Iran displayed its ballistic missile capabilities during a parade, including the Zolfaqar, a ground-to-ground missile with a 700 km (435 miles) range and the Qiam, with a range of 800 km, according to Tasnim news agency.  — Reuters

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