Iranian lawmakers shouted “Death to America!” and burned the United States flag Wednesday, just hours after President Trump announced he was withdrawing from the nuclear deal championed and agreed to by former President Barack Obama's administration.
Iranian lawmakers held the impromptu demonstration at the parliament building in Tehran, the capital of the Islamic Republic, where officials also burned a piece of paper representing the nuclear accord.
The chant "Death to America" has long been used in Iran, going back at least to the 1979 Islamic Revolution. It also has been common to hear the slogan shouted within parliament.
The protest came as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that Iran continued to seek “engagement with the world” and hoped European leaders would continue to “preserve the deal.” However, he cautioned that the Islamic nation could restart its nuclear program whenever it wanted, USA Today reported.
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called Trump's decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement "silly and superficial.” He also challenged Trump over his announcement --and knocked his presidential powers -- by saying “you cannot do a damn thing." Meanwhile, under Iran’s laws, Khamenei has final say on all state matters.
"You heard last night that the president of America made some silly and superficial comments,'' Khamenei said, according to Reuters. "He had maybe more than 10 lies in his comments. He threatened the regime and the people, saying you're doing this and that. Mr. Trump, I tell you on behalf of the Iranian people: You've made a mistake.''
Khamenei's comments continued on Twitter, where he took a swipe at past U.S. presidents and said Trump's "corpse will be worm food while IRI (Islamic Republican of Iran) stands strong."
Iran's 2015 nuclear deal imposed restrictions on its nuclear program in return for the lifting of most U.S. and international sanctions.
However, the deal came with time limits and did not address Iran's ballistic missile program or its regional policies in Syria and elsewhere. Trump has repeatedly pointed to those omissions by calling the "terrible" accord the "worst deal ever." Proponents of the deal have said those time limits were meant to encourage more discussion with Iran in the future that could eventually address other concerns.
Many Iranian citizens are worried about what Trump’s decision could mean for the country's financial future. Many say they have not seen any benefits from the nuclear deal.
Iran's poor economy and unemployment sparked violent nationwide protests in December and January that saw at least 25 people killed and, reportedly, nearly 5,000 people arrested.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.