Ayatollah Khamenei: Iran negotiates with world but not with US
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said Friday the enemy tried to use the “bitter” tragedy of accidentally downing a Ukrainian airliner to overshadow the funeral of a top commander assassinated in a US drone strike.
"The plane crash was a bitter accident, it burned through our heart," Ayatollah Khamenei told a huge crowd of worshipers as he gave a sermon during Friday prayers in Tehran for the first time in eight years.
"But some tried to... portray it in a way to forget the martyrdom and the funeral" of Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps.
Ayatollah Khamenei’s sermon came after the US drone strike assassinated Gen. Soleimani outside Baghdad airport on Jan. 3, prompting retaliatory Iranian missile strikes against Iraqi bases housing US troops.
The tensions between Washington and Tehran have abated since Iran said it unintentionally downed the Ukrainian airliner when it was on high alert after its retaliatory strikes against US targets in Iraq.
The plane crash killed all 176 passengers on board. Most of those killed were Iranians and Canadians.
The Leader said Iran's enemies were exploiting the tragedy for propaganda purposes.
“As much as we were saddened and our hearts were broken by the plane crash, our enemy was made happy, assuming that it has found a pretext to question the IRGC, the armed forces, and the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
The enemy's goal, he said, was to overshadow “that great incident” (the funeral held for Gen. Soleimani), but “they were wrong.”
The Leader also expressed sympathy with the families of those who lost their lives in the crash.
“We share their grief, and thank the parents and bereaved families who stood against the enemy’s plot and temptation and acted against what the enemy wanted, even though their hearts were full of pain and sorrow,” he said.
Praising Soleimani, the Leader said his actions beyond Iran's borders were in the service of the "security" of the nation and that the people are in favor of "firmness" and "resistance" in the face of enemies.
Ayatollah Khamenei said the mass funeral for Gen. Soleimani show that the Iranian people support the Islamic Republic despite its recent trials. He said the “cowardly” hit on Soleimani had taken out the most effective commander in the battle against the Daesh terror group and disgraced the US.
He said Iran’s missile strike on US forces in Iraq had dealt a “blow to America’s image” as a superpower. In the part of his sermon delivered in Arabic, he said the “real punishment” would be in forcing the US to withdraw from the Middle East.
"That a nation summons such a power and mental countenance to slap an arrogant and bullying force of the world in such a fashion is a sign that the hand of the divine power" is involved, Ayatollah Khamenei said.
Talks with world
The Leader said Iran negotiates with world from the position of strength rather than weakness, but will not sit down with the United States for talks.
“Getting strong is the only way the Iranian nation has ahead of itself. We should strive to become strong. We do not dislike negotiation – of course not with the US, but with others,”
The Leader also lashed out at Britain, France and Germany after they triggered a dispute mechanism to try and bring Iran back into compliance with the unraveling 2015 nuclear agreement. Iran began crossing certain limits under the agreement last summer, more than a year after US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal and began imposing sanctions. Earlier this month, Iran said it was no longer bound by the uranium enrichment limit set in the deal.
“These contemptible governments are waiting to bring the Iranian nation to its knees,” Ayatollah Khamenei said. “America, who is your elder, your leader and your master, was not able to bring the Iranian nation to its knees. You are too small to bring the Iranian nation to its knees.”
The nuclear deal – known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – has a provision that allows a party to claim significant non-compliance by another party before a joint commission.
If the issue is not resolved at the joint commission, it then goes to an advisory board and eventually to the UN Security Council which could reimpose sanctions.
“They threatened Iran with taking the nuclear issue to the Security Council once again, to which fortunately Iranian officials strongly responded,” the Leader said.
After the US withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018, the three European governments "kept talking and making nonsensical remarks", Ayatollah Khamenei said.
"From the very first day I said I don’t trust these three governments; that they would not do anything, and would serve the US. Now almost one year on, it is crystal clear that they are literally the pawns of the US.”
The Leader said even when the Europeans sit for talks, their negotiation is mixed with deceit and tricks.
“They are the ones who sit at the negotiating table; those ‘gentlemen’ at the negotiating table are the very terrorists of Baghdad airport [who assassinated Gen. Soleimani].
"They’re the same people, and are no different. They just change their clothes. They have a hand of steel hidden behind a pair of velvet gloves … They can’t be the ones we trust,” he added.
US ‘poisoned dagger’
Ayatollah Khamenei also hit out at the "American clowns who claim in utmost rascality" to be standing with the Iranian people, referring to a series of tweets by Trump and his secretary of state Mike Pompeo.
"Is a group of a few hundred who insulted the image of the nation's compassionate and celebrated commander the Iranian people, but not the countless and massive crowd who honored Haj Qassem in the streets?" the Leader said.
Ayatollah Khamenei was referring to a protest by a few hundred people in downtown Tehran against the accidental downing of the Ukrainian passenger plane, during which a poster of Gen. Soleimani was torn apart.
"The Americans have never been with the Iranian people and they are blatantly lying. If they are, it is meant at driving a poisonous dagger in the heart of this nation. Of course, they have failed so far and will be unable to do a damn thing from now on," he added.
AFP, AP and Press TV contributed to this story.