Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers Friday prayers sermon, in Tehran, Iran January 17, 2020.

  • Iran's supreme leader called Trump a "clown" and said the US president is preparing to stab Iranians in the back with a "poisonous dagger."
  • Ayatollah Ali Khamenei led public prayers in Tehran on Friday for the first time in eight years.
  • He used his speech to attack the US over the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
  • Khamenei was notably quiet on the Ukrainian Flight 752 disaster, however, only briefly mentioning it as a "bitter accident."
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Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, speaking in a rare public appearance, called US President Donald Trump a "clown," and said he only pretends to care about the Iranian people while preparing to stab them in the back with a "poisonous dagger."

Khamenei, who led Friday's public prayer for the first time in eight years, used the platform to push back against the US over the killing of top military commander Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike outside Baghdad's international airport earlier this month.

The ensuing weeks have seen Iran fire a salvo of missiles against US forces in Iraq, and on the same day accidentally shoot down a Ukrainian airliner taking off from Tehran.

These incidents have caused public opinion in Iran seesaw between respect for Soleimani as a nationalist figure, and frustration with the ruling clerics over the shoot down as well as constant domestic political and economic stress. Some Iranians have taken to the streets to demand Khamenei's resignation.

"These two weeks were extraordinary and eventful. Bitter and sweet events. Lessons we learned. The Iranian people went through a lot," Khamenei said Friday.

"We delivered a slap to US' image as a superpower."

Khamenei used the public sermon to denounce the Americans as cowardly, but only briefly mentioned the Ukrainian airline tragedy, calling it a "bitter accident" that has been seized by foreign opponents of the regime and its military.

"To the same extent that we were saddened and grief-stricken by the plane crash, our enemies were delighted … because they thought that they had been given an excuse to question the Guards and our Armed Forces," he added, according to BBC Monitoring.

His statement is unlikely to assuage domestic political anger over the incident as the three day delay in announcing Iran's role in the tragedy immediately led to widespread street protests across the country that were dispersed with live ammunition and teargas.

Before admitting last Friday that it shot down the plane,Iran had repeatedly obfuscated the truth, claiming that a technical error led to the crash.

The current demonstrations come at a brutal time for the Iranian regime as pressures from the United States over both countries presence in Iraq joins European actions to potentially trigger sanctions if Iran walks away from the nuclear agreement signed in 2015.

Trump has already pulled US support for the treaty, but Europe has remained on the fence in terms of imposing new sanctions in the hopes of brokering an agreement between Iran and the US.

Iranians had been talking to the streets en mass even before the assassination of Suleimani to protest Khamenei's regime, with hundreds of demonstrators wounded or killed by security forces since October.

While few have claimed that these protests pose a existential threat to the Iranian regime, the mostly middle class and student protesters have been hard to suppress thus far.

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