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New murals, same tension at ex-US embassy in Tehran

  • Published at 12:13 pm November 3rd, 2019
An Iranian woman walks past a new mural painted on the walls of the former US embassy in the capital Tehran on November 2, 2019 AFP

During his speech, General Salami reiterated Iran's grievances against the US

Iran unveiled new anti-American wall murals on the former US embassy on Saturday, two days before the 40th anniversary of the Tehran hostage crisis that has poisoned relations ever since.

Stark images of a crumbling Statue of Liberty, a downed US drone and skulls floating in a sea of blood underlined the deep hostility that has flared again in the era of President Donald Trump.

The political artworks were unveiled by the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Major General Hossein Salami, at a televised ceremony at the former mission that Iran calls the "den of spies."

During his speech, General Salami reiterated Iran's grievances against the US.

He said the only country to have used nuclear weapons was blocking other countries, especially Iran, from benefitting from a civil nuclear program.

He also charged that Washington is lying when it claims to support human rights and democracy, arguing that it backs nearly "all dictators" on Earth.

"America is no longer the first in anything," Salami said in his speech. "The enemies of America can now unbalance its system with the least amount of force applied."

The accusatory message of the paintings was one of a superpower thirsty for war and bent on tightening its grip on the globe, yet weakening despite its military might.

One of the images, which were dominated by the US flag colours white, red and blue, showed a revolver with a stars and stripes pattern, but with its barrel drooping downward and a bullet falling out.

'Fresh visual language'

The ceremony came two days before Iran celebrates the events of November 4, 1979.

Back then, less than nine months after the toppling of Iran's American-backed shah, students overran the embassy complex to demand the United States hand over the ousted ruler after he was admitted to a US hospital with cancer.

It took a full 444 days for the crisis to end with the release of 52 Americans. The US broke off diplomatic relations with Iran in 1980 and ties have been frozen ever since.

Tensions peaked again last year when Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions as part of a campaign of "maximum pressure."

Since then the arch-foes have come to the brink of military confrontation, drones have been downed, and tankers and Saudi oil installations mysteriously attacked.

The murals' designer, 33-year old Saber Sheikh-Rezaei, told AFP the new images share the old political message but are fresher in technique and reflect more recent Iran-US events.

"Many of the original works conveyed an old and dilapidated picture of Tehran and the Iranian people, but the works shown today will have a fresh visual language for at least the next 10 to 15 years," he said.

Doves and bats

One of the 16 new murals showed the American Global Hawk drone that was shot down by Iran in June over the Strait of Hormuz, with bats flying out of it.

Another featured the triangle of the Eye of Providence, the symbol used on the back of the US dollar bill, in a sea of blood with floating skulls.

Yet another work showed the Iran Air passenger jet that was shot down by a US warship over the Gulf in 1988, killing 290 people, with white doves flying out of it. 

Washington has called the tragedy a "mistake", while Iran has for years demanded an apology.

Before Salami's speech, revolutionary music videos played on a large monitor.

Hamed Zamani, a young singer popular among conservatives, was mocking US military threats against Iran, singing: "Everyone know this is the end of the line for you."

A rock clip with electric guitar solos showed boys in Guards' fatigues praising Iran's nuclear achievements and warning against trusting the US, "enemies with poison chalices in hand."

The Guards' chief, in his speech, issued a warning against any plans to attack Iran, which he said was expanding its sphere of influence to protect itself against any enemy "operation."

"Our gaze beyond our borders is based on expanding our territory of power so much that any place where the enemy attempts to start a conspiracy against Iran will be targeted."

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