Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei led the main weekly Muslim prayers in Tehran on Friday for the first time since 2012. It comes as the country grapples with the aftermath of the killing of its top general in a US airstrike and widespread protests at the downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet by Iranian military.

What Khamenei said about the US in his sermon:

  • The killing of General Qassem Soleimani in a US airstrike was a “disgrace for the US administration,” and the US showed “its terrorist nature.” 
  • Trump is a “clown” who pretends to support Iranians but will “push a poisonous dagger” into their backs.
  • Mass funerals for Soleimani reveal Iranians support the Islamic Republic despite recent protests.
  • Iran’s ballistic missiles targeting US troops in Iraq had dealt a “blow to America’s image” as a superpower.
  • “That Iran has the power to slap the face of an arrogant power shows that God supports us.”
  • The “real punishment” would be forcing the US to withdraw from the Middle East.
  • The “cowardly” killing of Soleimani had removed the most effective commander in the fight against Islamic State.

Khamenei lashes out at Europe:

  • Western countries are too weak to “bring Iranians to their knees.”
  • Britain, France and Germany, who tried this week to bring Iran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement, were “contemptible”  governments and “servants” of the US.

On the downing of a passenger airline: 

  • The shooting of Ukraine International Airlines was a “bitter accident” that saddened Iran as much as it made enemies happy.
  • Iran’s enemies used the crash as an opportunity to question the Islamic Republic, the Revolutionary Guard and the armed forces.

At Soleimani’s funeral, Khamenei had promised “harsh retaliation.” On January 8, Iran launched ballistic missiles targeting US military bases in Iraq. 

Read more: Opinion: We need transparency from Tehran on Ukrainian place crash in Iran.

Why is this significant?

Khamenei has held office since 1989 and has the final say on all major decisions. The last time he led Friday prayers at the Mosalla mosque in the Iranian capital was on the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic revolution. 

In his sermon then, he called Israel a “cancerous tumor” and promised to support anyone opposing the country. Khamenei had also warned against any US strikes on Iran over its nuclear program, saying the US would be destroyed “10 times over.”

Read more: Pro-Iranian militias: How autonomous are they?

Tumultuous month for Iran

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard accidently shot down a Ukrainian International Airlines passenger plane, mistaking it for an American counterattack.

The plane was shot shown shortly after it took off from Tehran’s main international airport, killing all 176 people on board, mostly Iranians and Canadians.

Iranian authorities concealed their role in the downing of the jet for three days, initially attributing the crash to a mechanical problem. After Tehran announced their responsibility in the crash, angry protesters took to the streets, with security forces firing tear gas and live ammunition at demonstrators.

mvb/rt (AFP, AP)

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