In his first Friday sermon in Tehran in eight years, Iran's supreme leader said President Trump is a "clown" who only pretends to support the Iranian people but will "push a poisonous dagger" into their backs. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the mass funerals for Iran's top general, who was killed in a US 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 ISIS. Iran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles targeting US troops in Iraq in response, and Khamenei said that strike 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 US 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 killing all 176 passengers on board, mostly Iranians. Khamenei called the shootdown of the plane a "bitter accident" that saddened Iran as much as it made its enemies happy. 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. He said Iran was willing to negotiate—but not with the US. (Iran has denied shooting at protesters outraged by the shooting down of the plane.)