U.S. Flag Burned As Iranian Politicians Chant 'Death to America' After Trump Nuclear Deal Withdrawal

Iranian politicians held an impromptu demonstration in the country’s parliament on Wednesday after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would be withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Washington Post reported.

Setting fire to a paper U.S. flag and chanting “Death to America,” the lawmakers symbolized the anger felt by many Iranians as Trump reneged on the Obama-era deal, signed in 2015 after two years of intense negotiations.

The burning of American flags and chants of “Death to America” have been common fixtures in Iranian demonstrations since the country’s Islamic revolution in 1979. To see such scenes inside the national parliament, however, is extremely unusual. The politicians also burned a piece of paper representing the JCPOA, as parliament speaker Ali Larijani claimed Trump “does not have the mental capacity to deal with issues.”

Iran's Fars News Agency tweeted video footage of the protest, noting that a number of parliamentarians were involved.

Trump announced his long-awaited decision in an address at the White House on Tuesday. The president described the deal—which lifted crippling international sanctions on Iran in return for limiting its nuclear program—as “horrible” and “one-sided,” arguing it “should have never, ever been made.”

A critic of the agreement since it was signed by the Obama administration, Trump claimed the JCPOA “didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will.”

It was Trump’s announcement that immediately seemed the greatest threat to peace in the region. Israel began mobilizing troops citing “irregular activity” by Iranian troops in Syria, unlocked bomb shelters in the north of the country and allegedly launched an airstrike on Iranian positions south of Damascus.

Wednesday’s protest will add to fears that hardliners in Tehran have been emboldened by Trump’s withdrawal. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani represents a relatively moderate strain of politics in Iran, but the failure of the JCPOA would be a blow to his ambitions to open the country to dialogue with the West. Given recent developments in North Korea, it could also convince Iran’s leaders that the only way to be heard and respected by the U.S. is to become nuclear-capable, sparking a resumption of its atomic weapons program.

Indeed, though Rouhani said his country would remain in the deal with the remaining signatories—the U.K., France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union—he has ordered the country’s atomic energy agency to prepare to resume industrial uranium enrichment “without restriction.”

Trump's decision was met with condemnation from European leaders and Russian officials. Saudi Arabia and Israel noted their support for the withdrawal. In a press briefing on Tuesday, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro told reporters he believed Trump's decision was “a major mistake” and a “reckless and ill-advised decision. The most reckless aspect of this is the lack of an alternative strategy,” Shapiro explained.

GettyImages-956113088 President Donald Trump holds up a memorandum that reinstates sanctions on Iran after he announced his decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal at the White House on May 8, 2018 in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Rouhani said there will be several weeks of discussions with the JCPOA’s remaining signatories to see if the deal can be salvaged. Though the other powers have underlined their continued support for the agreement, foreign firms may face punishing American sanctions if they continue to do business with Iran. Iranian officials have previously complained that levels of foreign investment were lower than expected after sanctions were lifted in 2015, and Trump’s withdrawal will no doubt exacerbate the issue.

The imminent re-imposition of sanctions leaves Iran facing renewed economic turmoil. The Iranian rial was already struggling amid rumours that the deal would collapse, and according to the Washington Post the rial was trading at 66,000 to the U.S. dollar on the black market despite a government-set rate of 42,000 rials.