Indignation, disappointment in Tehran as Trump disavows nuclear deal
Posted October 13, 2017 12:31 p.m. EDT
TEHRAN (CNN) — Hours before President Donald Trump publicly renounced the Iran nuclear deal, refusing to certify the multilateral agreement in an effort to initiate tougher and more wide-ranging restrictions on Tehran, hardliners in the country's capital said: I told you so.
At Tehran University, where the regime enjoys strong popularity, hundreds of worshipers gathered for Friday prayers. Separated by a barrier, men and women sat in contemplation, awaiting a sermon by Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani, a well-known hardliner.
"From the start of the nuclear deal we knew that Obama was lying and that he wasn't our friend," Kermani said. "The supreme leader showed us that (the US) are not our friends, that they will show our real face to us. They are our enemies."
The crowd erupted in chants of "Death to America," fists thrown in the air.
The same refrain was echoed later by Trump in his speech Friday warning of Iran's "sinister" worldview.
"Given the regime's murderous past and present, we should not take lightly its sinister vision for the future. The regimes' two favorite chants are 'Death to America' and 'Death to Israel,'" Trump said.
The combative rhetoric framed Trump's tough new policy toward Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. He has threatened to pull out of the pact if Congress and US allies can't agree to modify it.
Trump's speech comes just five months after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani handily won re-election in what was widely seen as a victory for the country's reformist camp. Rouhani, a moderate, was a key architect of the 2015 nuclear deal with the United States, the European Union and other partners, and his first term was marked by an emergent international outreach.
'Trump can't do a thing to us'
But while addressing worshipers in Tehran, Kermani urged the country's authorities to take into account the "bitter experience" of trusting the US in the past and to keep in mind that Washington is always seeking to harm the Islamic Republic.
"Brutal sanctions on Iran have shown that (the US) haven't been our friends and won't be our friends," Kermani said.
The same sentiment reverberated through the crowds of worshipers as they streamed out of Friday prayers.
"The only thing we've benefited (from the nuclear deal) is that the US has shown its ugly face," Mehdi Javonmard, a 19-year-old student, told CNN.
"Trump can't do a thing to us...not even his own people like him. He is a crazy man, just crazy," Sayyed Jaffa Karabi, 81, said.
Cleric Sayyed Ahmad Batahi, who also attended the sermon, took Kermani's message on the nuclear deal one step further.
"If they 'tear up the deal' then we will burn it," he said.
In the north of Tehran, in bustling Tajrish Square, an affluent, reformist neighborhood, the mood was different.
Women walking the streets wear their mandatory headscarves draped loosely over their heads. It's a political statement in this country, where the way a woman ways her hijab demonstrates how closely affiliated she, and by extension her husband, are to the regime.
Many here are disappointed by Trump's move to disavow the deal, and feel their hopes for a better future have been dashed.
"(Trump) should do like the other countries. He should have the same opinion as France and England but he's such an idiot that nothing works with him," said Elham Nademi, a 57-year-old housewife.
"Iran is a sad country now...it is sad to see us move in an opposite direction," she added.
Others say they are ready for what lies ahead, even if it is another chapter of isolation and sanctions against their country.
"The pressures that have been put on our people have been around for nearly 40 years," said a middle-aged passerby, who preferred to be referred to only as Massoud.
"We've experienced this before and we will respond to them based on what they do," he added.