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Iran marks 40 years since Islamic Revolution as Rouhani warns US

"Iran will continue to expand its military power and missile program," Rouhani said in front of ten thousands of people who had gathered in Tehran's Azadi (Freedom Square) to mark the 1979 overthrow of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and Western

US President Donald Trump said that the economic sanctions he re-imposed in 2018 sought to keep Iran's military – its ballistic missile program – in check

] Tehran has attempted to present the anniversary rallies as a show of support for the regime and Rouhani has accused Trump of openly agitating for regime change in Iran

"Today we are the target of a psychological and economic war. that belittle us, we must solve these problems with one another, "said Rouhani on Monday. "

'Death to America'

The recital of Quranic verses mixed with revolutionary chants as a sea of people carrying Iranian flags and demonstration banners.

 Protesters carry life-sized cardboard images of iconic revolutionary figures, including the Supreme Leader Rouhallah Khomeini.

"When we say 'Death to America' we mean with Trump, and (US Secretary of State Mike) Pompeo," said cleric Mohammed Reza Maqsood, 32, referring to the inflammatory chant that has long been a staple of the Islamic Republic's national celebrations

Maqsood echoed an address made by Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Friday, where he said that "Death to America" ​​applied only to "Trump, National Security Adviser John Bolton and Pompeo."

"I chose to come here and rally so that I can see."

'Conflict with the Islamic Republic would fail'

In a rare interview with Western media, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari told CNN: "With the missiles we have right now, with the progress in high technology and with the self-reliance we have achieved in various fields and with the growth of the population in Iran, we have the power and capacity to defend against any kind of invasion. "[19659002] Jafari said popular support for the government as well as Iran's "expanded defense system" has rendered the Islamic Republic "invincible."

"The Americans and other big powers know that a conflict with the Islamic Republic would fail," said Jafari. "They have started a soft war and a cultural, political and economic war against us, and our people have understood that. They are resisting and they are prepared."

Nostalgic fervor

Iranian authorities have tried to build anticipation for the anniversary. For days, state-aligned TV stations have aired archival footage from the 1979 protests. They re-ran dramatic video of the country's first Supreme Leader Ayatollah Rouhallah Khomeini arriving in Tehran after 14 years in exile and replayed the charismatic leader behooving crowds to shake off the shackles of "Western imperialism."

 Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini greets the crowd

The government's message centered around the slogan "Yes, we can , "an apparent acknowledgment of the difficulties faced by millions of Iranians under the strain of renewed US sanctions.

Prices have soared, the rial currency has plummeted and food and medical shortages have affected households across Iran. But the authorities say that the country is no stranger to hardship, and regularly invokes its people's "steadfastness" in the eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s

On Sunday night, fireworks lit up Tehran's sky and some conservative neighborhoods echoed it calls of Allah Akbar (God is great). This was a tribute to an out-recalled scene from the revolution exactly 40 years earlier. On the night before it was declared that the Shah had officially abdicated, Iranians took to their balconies, beating pots and pans as 'Allahu Akbar' reverberated across the capital.

Widening inequality

While many people attest to the fervor that gripped Iranians at the time, several former revolutionaries privately say they feel disillusioned by the political and economic situation

 protesters defiant in the face of & quot; worst & quot; crackdown in a decade

"We succeeded in creating a cultural change, making the country more religious," said businessman Abolqasem Shafie who participated in the Islamic revolution's demonstrations. "But I think that in terms of economics, there is a lot to be desired."

Since the revolution, literacy rates have skyrocketed and access to healthcare and education has improved, especially in rural areas and provinces.

Yet signs of widening inequality, as well as widespread reports of government corruption and cronyism, have heavily weighed on an economy that has been repeatedly hit by international sanctions over the past 40 years.

"There has been a big push at a grassroots level in Iran over the past year, as demonstrated by protest movements … that actually deal with issues of dealing with corruption and mismanagement of domestic affairs," said Ellie Geranmayeh, Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR)

"This is going to be a big issue …

For some, These problems have marred an event that would otherwise have been a cause for celebration.

"I'm not proud of this anniversary," said one man in his late 20s, who asked for anonymity for security reasons. "

 Iranians enjoy the ceremony on Monday

He added, however, that he had no nostalgia for the days of the Shah, despite wishing to regain the social freedoms that were lost as Iran transformed into a theocracy. His father had been involved in the demonstrations four decades ago – to undo what the revolutionaries had done, he argued, would mark "a step backward."

'Trump should not be involved'

The man said the US president's attack on the regime should stop. "Trump would not be involved in these things."

Instead of pitting Iranians against the regime, the Trump administration's attempts to isolate the country and support anti-regime protestors have Only called up images of war, some Iranians said. "My friends and I would rather stick to this regime than have a war like in Syria and Iraq," said the man.

ECFR's Geranmayeh said there is a "deep distrust" and doubt about future deals growing again between Iran and the West

"Will Iran come to the negotiating table once more with the United States?" "So far, the messaging is no, until the US comes back to the nuclear deal and meets its commitment," she added. 19659043] CNN's Shirzad Bozorgmehr, Sara Mazloumsaki, Zahra Ullah and Samuel Quashie-Idun contributed to this report

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