TEHRAN -- Angry Iranians gathered in front of the former American Embassy here in Tehran on Friday to celebrate the annual "Day of Fighting the Global Arrogance," and a senior security official warned against any compromise with the "great Satan."
Holding up models of missiles, which had "Made in Iran" proudly written on them, bearded youths stood before the former American mission here, almost 33 years after it was seized by Islamic students on Nov. 4, 1979. The hostage crisis that ensued led to 444 days of captivity for 52 American diplomats and the break in diplomatic relations between Washington and Tehran that continues today.
While The New York Times reported last month that Washington and Tehran were testing the waters for direct talks -- an idea denied in both capitals -- Iranian hard-liners turned the annual commemoration on Friday into a stage for opposing any form of compromise.
"Today we commemorate the conquering of the castle of Satan!" shouted Mohammad Reza Naghdi, the commander of a paramilitary group. "Hear me now, we condemn all sorts of secret talks!"
Senior officials have accused President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of wanting to start such talks, stressing that decisions about potential relations with the United States can only be made by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. While it is unclear if any secret approaches were being made, the speech during the commemoration ceremony seemed aimed at convincing the public that it is better not to have relations with Washington.
Mr. Naghdi said that the embassy seizure had been a turning point in history -- the start of America's decline and the rise of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
"In those days, the U.S. could change governments with one phone call," he said. "But we took their embassy, and today we witness the fallen and miserable America in front of Iran."
Stringent international sanctions imposed to push Iran to suspend its nuclear ambitions, fear of war and shifting opinion in the growing urban middle class, are prompting many to say privately here that it is time to start negotiations with the United States. But the commander made clear that the official state narrative is by no means ready for such a move.
"The Iranian nation will not resume ties with America. There are conditions for America to re-establish tie with Iran. First, it should behave. It should close its military bases in 50 countries. It has more than 86 military bases across the world. Why should a country have military bases in another country?" Mr. Naghdi said.
"It should remove its naval ships from the Persian Gulf, Mediterranean Sea and Pacific Ocean and take them to its own coasts," he added.
"It doesn't matter for us who wins the U.S. elections next week," said Mansour Nouri, 42, a writer. "Who leads America is unimportant, its policies never change."world
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.