Rouhani marks Islamic revolution anniversary with critique of US

On 35th anniversary of revolution, Iranian president says Tehran will press on 'forever' with peaceful atomic research

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 Tuesday.

In a speech on Tuesday marking the 35th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hit back at Western assertions that a military solution to a nuclear dispute with Tehran remained an option and pledged that Tehran would press on "forever" with peaceful atomic research.

Rouhani also attacked economic sanctions imposed by the West as "brutal, illegal and wrong," and said countries in the region had nothing to fear from Iran, who the West believes intends to develop a nuclear weapon.

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"I say explicitly to those delusional people who say the military option is on the table that they should change their glasses ... Our nation regards the language of threat as rude and offensive," he said.

"I want to expressly announce that the movement of the Iranian nation toward the peaks of scientific and technical progress and advancement, including peaceful nuclear technology, will be forever.”

Rouhani’s first major public speech in Iran since becoming president in August comes a day after the country test-fired two new domestically made missiles, a gesture of military might ahead of talks next week with world powers to try to reach an agreement on curbing Tehran's nuclear program.

Iran’s official IRNA news agency quoted Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan as saying on Tuesday that the missile test should be regarded as a proper response to the Western leaders who underline that "all options are on the table.”

Iran and the six powers will start negotiating a full agreement in Vienna on Feb. 18 to lift sanctions, imposed on Iran over its nuclear activities, in exchange for Tehran agreeing to limit parts of its nuclear program. The countries struck an interim deal in November and began easing sanctions in January.

But Rouhani said Western officials continued to argue that if Iran fails to hold up its end of the bargain, there was always the option of using military force against its nuclear facilities.

Secretary of State John Kerry told Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television on Jan. 23 that if Tehran did not abide by the interim deal "the military option of the United States is ready and prepared to do what it would have to do."

On Tuesday, Rouhani said that if major powers approached Iran in the nuclear talks seeking mutual interest, respect and cooperation, they would receive a positive and proper response. If their approach was inappropriate, this would be harmful to the region.

Ready for the great battle

Iran’s revolution was set in motion in 1979 after a siege began some 10 months after the fall of the U.S.-allied shah. Radical students stormed the U.S. embassy, taking 52 people hostage. They were released after 444 days, and the siege ended Washington's diplomatic relations with Tehran.

On its 35th anniversary, huge crowds thronged central Azadi square for the speech by Rouhani, a moderate who has pursued a cooling of relations with the West since succeeding hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but who marked the occasion by launching into traditional anti-U.S. rhetoric.

"The people's vote had no role in running this country. This was a huge humiliation," Rouhani said, referring to the period before the revolution when Iran was a constitutional monarchy.

"People wanted their views to be an influence (but) the big powers were interfering in the internal affairs of this country. ... The Americans thought the country of Iran belongs to them. They interfered everywhere even on security issues."

Al Jazeera's Soraya Lennie reported from Tehran that Iranians still feel there is a lot that needs to be done to strengthen relations between the U.S. and Iran.

"Yes, they want better relations with the United States. They're happy with the government and the diplomatic push from the government, but there's still so much anger in the people toward the history of Iran and the United States," Lennie said.

The crowds in Tehran burned U.S. and Israeli flags with pictures of President Barack Obama and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and shouted "Down with the U.S." and "Death to Israel" — chants that are commonplace in most Iranian rallies, but now come against the backdrop of Rouhani's policy of outreach to the West.

The slogans of Tuesday's celebration expressed Iran's current feelings towards the U.S. and include "we'll stand to the end," "we will stand up against and we are ready for all options on the table" and "we are ready for the great battle.”

The first slogan is "obviously a reference to the United States and external pressures on Iran", Lennie said, while the second is "of course a reference to President Obama, John Kerry and all options on the table including military ones.”

But while Rouhani fed off the pro-revolution enthusiasm of Tuesday’s anniversary, he harnessed it by reiterating his call for a better global image for Iran.

"We wanted to strip ill-wishers of their scare-tactics; we wanted to speak even louder that there is no basis for fearing Iran in the region, that they are all lies,” he said. “We must eradicate the negative image in world public opinion about our revolution."

Al Jazeera and wire services

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