Thousands of Iranians turned out in well-organized rallies on Monday to mark the 1979 takeover of the US Embassy. They denounced the “den of spies” and its alliance with Israel and listened to a speech from Saeed Jalili, the 2013 Presidential candidate and former lead nuclear negotiator.
But will the marches block the Rouhani Government’s pursuit of an agreement with Washington and the 5+1 Powers over Iran’s nuclear program, in high-level talks resuming in Geneva on Thursday?
Given the place of 13 Aban (November 4) in the Islamic Republic’s history, there was no way that the regime was going to suspend Monday’s gathering, and it is still too soon politically for “Death To/Down With America” to make an exit. And the day allowed the diehard anti-American faction, both within the regime and among the public, to let off steam about the Rouhani “engagement” with the US.
The telling response, however, came in the silence of the highest levels of the establishment and in the reactions of State and semi-official media.
The Supreme Leader fired off a few jibes at the US on Sunday; however, he also supported President Rouhani’s diplomacy and told critics to keep quiet while the talks are ongoing. Following that lead, no senior official came out on Monday to lead “Death to America” — while holding a place on the Expediency Council, Jalili is very much yesterday’s politician.
English-language Press TV largely ignored the rallies in favor of a series of stories pressing nuclear diplomacy — Foreign Minister Zarif promoting the talks, leading MP Alaeddin Boroujerdi saying “Basis of Talks accepting Iran N-Rights”, and President Rouhani calling for patience: “Lifting Iran Sanctions Requires Time”.
Even more importantly, Fars News — the outlet of the Revolutionary Guards — also played down 13 Aban on its English site, even as its Persian counterpart headlined the “Death to America” chants. This morning, it highlights a statement from the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, “Vice-Speaker: Parliament Supporting Iranian Team of Negotiators“.
If this week’s talks in Geneva do not go well — for example, with Iran getting no prospect of a lifting of sanctions — then space may open up for the hardliners, especially if the Supreme Leader turns his back on engagement. Jalili may make a political comeback as their representative.
For now, however, the “Death to/Down with America” rallies of 13 Aban are a passing set-piece, already replaced by headlines of “Talks with America”.