Iran’s supreme leader said President Donald Trump is a “clown” who only pretends to support the Iranian people but will “push a poisonous dagger” into their backs, as he struck a defiant tone in his first Friday sermon in Tehran in eight years.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the mass funerals for Iran’s top general, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike earlier this month, show that the Iranian people support the Islamic Republic despite its recent trials.
He said the “cowardly” killing of Soleimani had taken out the most effective commander in the battle against the Islamic State group, DailyMail reports.
In response, Iran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles targeting U.S. troops in Iraq, without causing serious injuries.
Khamenei said the strike had dealt a “blow to America’s image” as a superpower.
In part of the sermon delivered in Arabic, he said the “real punishment” would be in forcing the U.S. to withdraw from the Middle East.
As Iran’s Revolutionary Guard braced for an American counterattack that never came, it mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian jetliner shortly after it took off from Tehran’s international airport, killing all 176 passengers on board, mostly Iranians.
Authorities concealed their role in the tragedy for three days, initially blaming the crash on a technical problem. Their admission of responsibility triggered days of street protests, which security forces dispersed with live ammunition and tear gas.
Khamenei called the shootdown of the plane a “bitter accident” that saddened Iran as much as it made its enemies happy. He said Iran’s enemies had seized on the crash to question the Islamic Republic, the Revolutionary Guard and the armed forces.
He also lashed out at Western countries, saying they are too weak to “bring Iranians to their knees.”
He said Britain, France and Germany, which this week triggered a dispute mechanism to try and bring Iran back into compliance with the unraveling 2015 nuclear agreement, were “contemptible” governments and “servants” of the United States.