TEHRAN (Dispatches) – President Hassan Rouhani on Monday said "enemy" plots against Iran would fail as vast several millions of Iranians marked 40 years since the Islamic Revolution at a time of heightened tensions with the United States.
"The presence of people today on the streets all over Islamic Iran means that the enemy will never succeed and the Revolution will continue on the same path as in the past 40 years,” Rouhani said.
"We will not let America succeed,” he told those thronging Tehran's Azadi (Freedom) square.
Chador-clad women, Basij members in camouflage fatigues and ordinary citizens marched through the capital in freezing rain to commemorate the day in February 1979 that the late Imam Khomeini ended millennia of royal rule.
The routes leading up to the square were packed with people as loudspeakers played revolutionary anthems and slogans.
Life-size replicas of Iranian-made cruise and ballistic missiles stood in a statement of defiance after the U.S. last year reimposed sanctions following its withdrawal from a deal on Tehran's nuclear program.
Rouhani lambasted calls from Washington and Europe for a fresh agreement to curb Iran's missile program.
"We have not, and will not request permission from anyone for increasing our defensive power and for building all kinds of... missiles," he told the crowd.
Speaking from a flower-festooned stage overlooking the square the president warned that Iran was now far stronger than when it faced off against Saddam Hussein's Iraq in a devastating conflict from 1980-88.
"Today the whole world should know that the Islamic Republic of Iran is considerably more powerful than the days of the war," Rouhani said.
A resolution was read out ahead of his speech that proclaimed "unquestioning obedience” to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei" and called U.S. President Donald Trump an "idiot".
The events Monday were the culmination of official celebrations called the "10 Day Dawn" that mark the period between February 1, 1979 and February 11 when Imam Khomeini retuned from exile and ousted the shah's last regime.
Banners held by marchers or hung along the streets bore slogans including "Death to America", "Death to Israel", "we will trample on America", "forty yeas of challenge, forty years of U.S. defeats".
"Much to the dismay of America, the revolution has reached its 40th year,” read one banner.
The large turnout in rallies came even as Iranians face mounting economic hardships amid intensified U.S. sanctions.
"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,” Rouhani said.
A number of Israeli and American flags were set on fire by the crowds.
Those who took to the streets were bullish despite the economic problems in the country, made worse by Washington's punitive measures, AFP reported from Tehran.
Former public servant Saaghi insisted that it remained paramount for Iranians to stick by the revolution. "We are here to support the revolution," the 57-year-old pensioner, who refused to give his first name, told AFP at the event in Tehran.
He compared the U.S. sanctions and economic hardships to "riding a bicycle when someone puts a stick in the wheels" but pointed to advances in other fields as more than making up for them.
"At the revolution's 40 anniversary we are on top of scientific achievements like nanotechnology or accurate missiles," he said.
Extensive fireworks displays were held across Tehran on Sunday night.
Before the fireworks, Iranians shouted chants of "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) from rooftops, recalling the protests that swept the Islamic Revolution to victory four decades earlier.
Ayatollah Khamenei is set to publish "a detailed statement explaining the 'second step' of the progress of the Islamic revolution", his official website said.
U.S. officials have adopted an extremely hostile policy toward Iran under the Trump administration, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledging to "starve” Iranians until they give in to American demands.
Washington is calling for new negotiations which would include restraining Iran's missile program and its role in the Middle East as well as the country's support for anti-Israeli resistance movements, such as Hezbollah.
The Iranian president made it clear that Tehran would not ask for permission to strengthen its defenses. He said Iran was not going to roll back its regional influence either.
"Over the past five years, Iran provided assistance to Iraqi, Syrian, Lebanese, Palestinian and Yemeni nations when it saw fit and the world saw how the enemies failed” and now they are leaving the region, he said.
"Iran’s role in the region has reached a historical peak and no matter what other countries and superpowers say, Iran is the only country that can rush to help regional states,” he added.
Rouhani said no plan for regional security will succeed without Iran, adding "the global arrogance, Americans and Zionists should know that this victory will be Iran’s.”
"The enemy cannot ask us to leave the region. They must leave the region," said Brigadier General Hussein Salami, deputy head of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). "We will help any Muslim anywhere in the world."
IRGC Brigadier General Ramezan Sharif said Iran would "firmly punish" aggressors who attack the country.
"Islamic Iran has reached a level ... to protect its borders by effective military capabilities, and firmly punish any aggressor," he said.
Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi, who took the podium after the president, said even more people were going to celebrate over the next years because the Islamic Revolution was going to prosper.
First Vice President Es'haq Jahangiri, who had traveled to the city of Shiraz to mark the event there, said Iranians would overcome America’s "economic war” as they did during the Iran-Iraq war.
"Let me send this message to Americans that the Iranian government, nation and officials are pushing to break the American sanctions,” he said.
Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh told reporters at the rally in Tehran that the Islamic Republic had already taken measures to protect its oil industry against U.S. sanctions.
"Such measures are not publicized in war; we are trying our best to pull through the era of sanctions,” he said.