Iranians attend a ceremony celebrating the 40th anniversary of Islamic Revolution, under the Azadi (freedom) square in Tehran, Iran, Feb 11, 2019. (VAHID SALEMI / AP)
DUBAI – Hundreds of thousands of Iranians held nation-wide rallies on Monday to mark the 40th anniversary of the fall of the Shah and the triumph of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Shi'ite cleric who led an Islamic Revolution that rattles the West to this day.
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.
Hassan Rouhani, President. Iran
On Feb 11, 1979, Iran's army declared its neutrality, paving the way for the collapse of the US-backed monarch, the United States' closest ally in the Middle East.
State TV showed large crowds defying frigid weather and carrying Iranian flags while chanting "Death to Israel, Death to America," trademark chants of the revolution which toppled the United States' most important ally in the Middle East.
One banner read: "Much to the dismay of America, the revolution has reached its 40th year."
The large turnout in state-sponsored rallies came as Iranians face rising prices, food shortages and high inflation that have triggered waves of protests.
US President Donald Trump pulled out of Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers last year and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran, dealing a blow to the country's economy.
Iranian officials said the move amounted to "economic warfare"
In a speech at Tehran's Azadi (Freedom) square, President Hassan Rouhani dismissed US efforts to isolate Iran, saying US sanctions could not break the Islamic Republic.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a ceremony celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, at the Azadi (freedom) Square in Tehran, Iran, Feb 11, 2019. (VAHID SALEMI / AP)
"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," he said in a speech.
In an undated photo from 1979, protestors burn an effigy of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi during a demonstration in front of the US Embassy in Tehran, Iran. (PHOTO / AP)
Iran was determined to expand its military power and ballistic missile program despite mounting pressure from hostile countries to curb Iran's defensive work, state TV reported Rouhani as saying.
Soldiers, students, clerics and black-clad women holding small children flocked to the streets of cities and towns, many carrying portraits of Khomeini and Iran's current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
School students wave their national flags as Revolutionary Guard members arrive in Azadi, freedom square, during a ceremony celebrating the 40th anniversary of Islamic Revolution in Tehran, Iran, Feb 11, 2019. (VAHID SALEMI / AP)
Regional power Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries have viewed Iran with great suspicion since the Islamic Revolution swept the Shah from power, fearing Khomeini would inspire Islamic militants across the region.
Iran and Saudi Arabia are locked in proxy wars in Iraq, Yemen and Syria.
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