Nov 4, 2019

U.S. Embassy takeover anniversary: Iranians chant "death to America"

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei makes a speech on Monday on the 40th anniversary of the Iran crisis. Photo: Lideri Basn Ofisi/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Thousands of Iranians chanted "death to America" as Iran marked the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Embassy takeover and ensuing hostage crisis in Tehran, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declaring the two countries "implacable foes," Reuters reports.

Why it matters: On Nov. 4, 1979, a group of students stormed the American Embassy in Tehran to demand the extradition of the shah, who was being treated for cancer in the U.S. They took hostages, including 62 Americans, in a crisis that lasted for 444 days and "transfixed America," per AP. The damage in relations it caused between the two countries persists today.

The big picture: Per AP, "Popular anger against the U.S. was rooted in the 1953 CIA-engineered coup that toppled Iran’s elected prime minister and cemented the power of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi." While hostages in the embassy were slowly released, several diplomats escaped with the help of the CIA, as documented in the 2002 film "Argo."

  • Relations have soured further since President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and hit the country with sanctions. Iran later announced the suspension of some of its commitments under the nuclear agreement and the resumption of higher uranium enrichment.

What's next: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will host an event on Monday that "commemorates the bravery that all former hostages and their families have shown during unimaginable circumstances," the State Department said in a statement.

"It’s unfortunate that this anniversary serves as a reminder of the long history of malign behavior by the Iranian regime and the danger it has posed to the United States and the world over the past 40 years."
— State Department statement

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Iran's President Hassan Rouhani speaks at parliament in the capital Tehran. Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images

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Why it matters: The announcement coincided with the first anniversary of the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran. Axios contributor Barak Ravid notes the announced plans are a substantial breach of Iran's nuclear deal.

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