Iranians chanted “Death to America” and burned the U.S. flag after weekly prayers in Tehran on Friday despite their new president’s outreach to the West and promises of moderation and easing of tensions with the outside world.
The chants, customary after Friday services in the Iranian capital, reflect the challenges facing President Hassan Rouhani as he tries to build on the groundbreaking exchanges with Washington that included a telephone chat last week with President Barack Obama — a gesture aimed at ending three decades of estrangement between the two countries.
Rouhani’s overtures have been hailed by both Iranian reformists and the country’s conservative clerical leadership.
But a wide array of Iranian hard-liners opposes any improved contact with the Unites States. Diplomatic relations between the two were cut after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, when militants held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.