The protest was held to mark the 30th anniversary of the breaking of ties between the United States and Iran.
The so-called students are usually Basijis operating on orders from Iranian hardliners, who depend on the existence of the "eternal enemy" for their survival. For them, enmity toward the United States is central to the nature and identity of the Islamic Republic.
The timing of the recent espionage charges against U.S. journalist Roxana Saberi could be another indication of the hardliners' attempt to complicate the U.S. drive to engage Iran.
And "The Wall Street Journal" reported today that some analysts in Iran believe that Saberi might be used by Tehran as leverage to secure the release of three Iranian nationals arrested in Iraq in a U.S. military raid in 2007.
Despite such moves, many Iranians, including a number of RFE/RL's Radio Farda listeners, have welcomed Obama's overture, in particular the videotaped message that was aired on the occasion of the Iranian New Year and during which President Obama promised a "new beginning" with Iran.
Many Iranians inside the country thanked President Obama for reaching out to Iran in their e-mail, text messages, and telephone calls to Radio Farda.
A good portion of Iranians though probably never saw or heard of Obama's video message.
Although, as one Iranian web portal reported, about 15 hours after the message was aired some 150,000 Iranians watched it online, the less web-savvy Iranians would have been out of luck.
Iranian blogger Masih Alinejad noted that Iran’s state television did not air the Norouz message.
And as she notes, "if Obama had talked like Bush and considered Iran a threat, Iranian National TV would have broadcast it several times."
-- Golnaz Esfandiari