Iran en­e­mies ex­ploit­ing plane tragedy, says Supreme Leader

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Tehran, Iran - Iran’s Supreme Leader said on Fri­day that demon­stra­tions at home over the ac­ci­den­tal down­ing of a Ukrainian air­liner were un­rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Ira­nian peo­ple and ac­cused the coun­try’s en­e­mies of ex­ploit­ing the dis­as­ter for pro­pa­ganda pur­poses.

Lead­ing the main weekly prayers in Tehran for the first time since 2012, Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei said the Jan­uary 8 in­ci­dent was a ‘bit­ter’ tragedy but should not be al­lowed to over­shadow the ‘sac­ri­fice’ of one of Iran’s most sto­ried com­man­ders, as­sas­si­nated in a US drone strike.

His ser­mon came af­ter a trau­matic month for Iran in which it ap­proached the brink of war with the United States and mis­tak­enly shot down the Ukrainian jet, killing all 176 peo­ple on board.

“The plane crash was a bit­ter ac­ci­dent, it burned through our heart,” Khamenei said.

‘But some tried to... por­tray it in a way to for­get the great mar­tyr­dom and sac­ri­fice’ of Ma­jor Gen­eral Qasem Soleimani, the head of the for­eign op­er­a­tions arm of Iran’s elite Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards who was as­sas­si­nated in Bagh­dad on Jan­uary 3.

Khamenei said Iran’s en­e­mies had tried to use the plane tragedy to un­der­mine the Is­lamic repub­lic. “Our en­e­mies were as happy about the plane crash as we were sad,” he said.

“The spokes­men of the vi­cious Amer­i­can govern­ment keep re­peat­ing that we stand with the peo­ple of Iran. You’re ly­ing,” Khamenei said.

He also slammed Bri­tain, France and Ger­many, which on Tues­day de­cided to trig­ger a dis­pute mech­a­nism in the 2015 nu­clear deal with Iran, fol­low­ing US threats to im­pose tar­iffs on Euro­pean cars. “It has been proven

now, af­ter about a year, that they are, in the true sense of the word, Amer­ica’s lack­eys,” he said.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­acted by tweet­ing that Khamenei should watch his words.

‘The so-called ‘Supreme

Leader’ of Iran, who has not been so Supreme lately, had some nasty things to say about the United States and Europe’, Trump tweeted.

‘Their econ­omy is crash­ing, and their peo­ple are suf­fer­ing. He should be very care­ful with his words!’

The air dis­as­ter trig­gered scat­tered protests in Tehran and other cities, but they ap­peared smaller than na­tion­wide demon­stra­tions in Novem­ber in which Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said at least 300 peo­ple died.

On Fri­day, anti-riot po­lice staged a mas­sive de­ploy­ment in Tehran, a cor­re­spon­dent said.

Khamenei said the pro­test­ers were un­rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Ira­nian peo­ple, who had turned out in their hun­dreds of thou­sands in what he called a ‘mil­lion-strong crowd’ for Soleimani’s fu­neral.

Prais­ing the slain gen­eral, Khamenei said his ac­tions beyond Iran’s bor­ders were in the ser­vice of the ‘se­cu­rity’ of the na­tion and that the peo­ple sup­port ‘re­sis­tance’ against its en­e­mies.

It was peo­ple like Soleimani, not the pro­test­ers, who had de­voted their lives to Iran, Khamenei told thou­sands of wor­ship­pers who crammed into the mosque and spilled into the snowy streets out­side.

Khamenei’s ser­mon came at a tu­mul­tuous mo­ment for Iran, which had seemed headed for con­flict ear­lier in Jan­uary af­ter Soleimani was killed on Jan­uary 3 out­side Bagh­dad air­port, prompt­ing re­tal­ia­tory strikes against Iraqi bases hous­ing US troops.

Khamenei hailed the strikes as a ‘sign of di­vine help’.

“It was a strike to their rep­u­ta­tion, to Amer­ica’s might. This can­not be com­pen­sated by any­thing ... sanc­tions can­not re­turn the lost pres­tige of Amer­ica,” he said.

The an­i­mos­ity be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Tehran has soared since US Trump uni­lat­er­ally with­drew from a land­mark nu­clear deal in 2018 and reim­posed bit­ing sanc­tions.

Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov urged a ‘de-es­ca­la­tion’ of the ten­sions and an end to the ‘ con­stant threats’. The plane tragedy ‘is a very se­ri­ous red flag and sig­nal to start work­ing on de-es­ca­la­tion and not on con­stant threats and com­bat avi­a­tion flights in this re­gion’, Lavrov said.


Iran’s Supreme Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei in Tehran on Fri­day

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