In Brief

Iran erupts as US oil sanctions return

‘Millions’ attend state-organised rallies against US embargo timed to coincide with anniversary of US embassy takeover

Iranians have taken to the streets chanting “Death to America” to protest the reimposition of US sanctions on oil exports, timed to coincide with the anniversary of the US embassy takeover during the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Scores of students turned out in a government-organised rally in the capital Tehran to burn the American flag as well as effigies of Uncle Sam and pictures of Donald Trump outside the building that used to house the US embassy.

State media reported that “millions” of people rallied in towns and cities across Iran yesterday, swearing allegiance to the clerical establishment and its hardline top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

It is 39 years since 52 American citizens were taken hostage and held for 444 days after hardline students stormed the US embassy. The incident made Iran an international pariah and caused a diplomatic schism between the two countries that has remained to this day.

Rallies replete with “Death to America” chants are staged on the embassy takeover anniversary every year, “but US-Iranian rancour is especially strong this time round following Trump’s decision in May to withdraw the United States from world powers’ 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimpose sanctions on Tehran” reports Reuters.

HBO issued a warning to Trump after the US president tweeted an image of himself looking off-camera while striding forward on top of a moody grey background, with the words “Sanctions are coming. November 5” across his chest.

The font is the same as that used in hit TV show Game of Thrones and the wording is a riff on one of the famous lines from the series, “Winter is coming”.

In a statement to CNBC, HBO saying: “We were not aware of this messaging and would prefer our trademark not be misappropriated for political purposes”.

With Iran’s economy already creaking under renewed US sanctions, tight restrictions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors which come into effect today risk tipping the country into chaos.

This has prompted a hardening of rhetoric from Iran’s leaders. Addressing the rally in Tehran, the commander of the elite Revolutionary Guard, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said the country would resist and defeat the US’ “psychological war” and the return of sanctions aimed at crippling Iran’s oil exports and financial institutions.

“America has launched an economic and psychological war as a last resort... But America’s plots and its plans for sanctions will be defeated through continued resistance”, he said.

Meanwhile, Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, has responded robustly, saying: “There is no doubt that the United States will not achieve success with this new plot against Iran as they are retreating step by step”.

According to The Guardian however, “inside Iran... people are on tenterhooks. Economic grievances were a trigger for a wave of nationwide protests in recent months over the scarcity of the US dollar, unpaid wages and rising prices.

“Don't be disillusioned about how painful this will be,” says Ellie Geranmayeh, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. But “Iran has weathered multiple rounds of sanctions before.”

The BBC says that Iranians “will be forced into finding creative ways to sell oil, relying on their years of experience of life under previous sanctions. And to fill the gap left by lost European investment, Iran will be looking east to forge new links with Russia and China.”

“Nov 5th isn’t the most pivotal moment in this saga,” said Ali Vaez, Iran project director at the International Crisis Group. “Paradoxically, if sanctions prove as effective as the White House is hoping for, they are bound to push Iran to either revive its nuclear program or become more aggressive in the region. Both will significantly increase the risks of a military confrontation.”

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