In a rare appearance on Friday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, praised the country’s missile strike on a U.S. airbase earlier this month while bashing President Trump as an untrustworthy clown and accusing the U.S. of using Iran’s downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet, which Iran initially tried to cover up, as a distraction.
“The fact that Iran has the power to give such a slap to a world power shows the hand of God,” Khamenei said, according to Reuters.
“These American clowns who lie and say they are with the Iranian people should see who the Iranian people are,” said the Iranian leader.
Khameini went on to accuse the U.S. of trying to use Iran’s horrific downing of Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 to shift international attention from the Trump-ordered strike that took out Iran’s top military leader, Qassem Soleimani, who Khameini claimed was “mourned” by “millions in Iran.”
“Khamenei told the crowd Friday that Trump is not to be trusted and only pretends to support the Iranian people,” Fox News reports. “He said Western countries are too weak to ‘bring Iranians to their knees.’ He said Iran was willing to negotiate, but not with the U.S.”
Since Khamenei has not addressed Friday prayers in Tehran since 2012, one Middle East scholar told the Washington Post that his address is a “symbolically significant act.”
On January 8, the Iranian regime launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against U.S. military and coalition forces in Iraq at the Asad airbase in Anbar Province. The attack followed an airstrike in Baghdad ordered by President Trump that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who he described as one of the “worst terrorists in history and the father of the roadside bomb.”
Though no Americans or Iraqis were killed or wounded in the blast, a recent report shows that at least 11 U.S. troops were treated for injuries like concussions.
“No one was killed or wounded in the five barrages of multiple missiles that night, although several military personnel who were working were checked for concussions,” The New York Times reported. “The absence of casualties seemed to be the result of luck and warnings.”
A spokesman for the U.S. military command in Baghdad also said: “As previously stated, while no U.S. service members were killed in the Jan. 8 Iranian attack on Al Asad Air base, several were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed.”
Shortly after the missile strike, Iran shot down a Ukranian jetliner that killed 176 people, presumably mistaking the plane for a U.S. counter-attack. Khamenei referred to the tragedy as a “bitter accident” that Iranians mourned.
Meeting in London on Thursday, ministers from Afghanistan, Britain, Canada, Sweden and Ukraine – all of which lost citizens in the crash – demanded full-transparency from Iran during the downed-plane investigation as well as compensation.
“We are here to pursue closure, accountability, transparency and justice for the victims – Ukrainian, Swedish, Afghan, British, Canadian as well as Iranian, through a full complete and transparent international investigation,” said Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne. “In the wake of such a horrific tragedy there are many many questions. Families want answers, all of the countries assembled here today want answers, and the international community want answers. The world is waiting for those answers and we will not rest until we get them.”