Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a rare public statement during Friday prayers in Tehran, in which he used the opportunity to praise the recent Iranian missile strikes on U.S.-coalition bases in Iraq and to call U.S. President Donald Trump a “clown.”
“The villainous U.S. government repeatedly says that they are standing by the Iranian people. They lie,” Khamenei said, according to Fox News. “If you are standing with the Iranian people, it is only to stab them in the heart with their venomous daggers.”
Khamenei’s comments appeared to refer to Trump’s recent tweets in Iran’s native Farsi, in support of protests against the Iranian government. He dismissed the tweets supporting the Tehran protests as the comments of “American clowns.”
Khamenei’s statements are particularly rare as this was the first time he has led Friday prayers in Tehran since 2012.
He went on to say Iran would not give in to U.S. economic sanctions and called the recent U.S. strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani a “cowardly” attack.
“The shameless U.S. government was disgraced by calling Martyr Soleimani a terrorist when he was recognized by everyone as the most prominent and powerful commander in the fight against terrorism,” he said. “The U.S. government killed Martyr Soleimani, not in the battlefield but thievishly and cowardly.”
Soleimani was killed by a U.S. drone-fired missile while he was meeting in Baghdad, Iraq with members of pro-Iranian militias. The U.S. has accused Soleimani and Iran as a whole of sponsoring attacks on U.S. personnel in the region through proxies.
Khamenei praised Iran’s response to Soleimani’s death, which included retaliatory missile strikes on bases that house U.S. troops in Iraq. No U.S. personnel were killed in the attacks, but recent reports indicate some 11 service members were hospitalized with concussion symptoms.
“The fact that Iran has the power to give such a slap to a world power shows the hand of God,” Khamenei said. “More important and greater than a military strike, it was a blow to the dignity and awe of the U.S. as a superpower.”
The attack also damaged some equipment and a U.S. helicopter.
In the aftermath of the missile attacks, Trump assessed minimal damage and appeared to treat that news as an opportunity to ease tensions with Iran. Instead of calling for retaliatory strikes on Iran, Trump suggested new economic sanctions against the country.
The U.S. and other countries that had joined a 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran had agreed to ease sanctions on the country in exchange for its compliance to nuclear enrichment limits. Since pulling out of the deal in May of 2018, the U.S. has renewed sanctions on Iran.
On Thursday, prior to Khamenei’s latest remarks, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani signaled the latest blow to the 2015 deal and announced the country would abandon all limits on uranium enrichment.