In his first Friday sermon delivery since 2012, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has defended the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) amid a growing backlash after it mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane, killing all 176 people on board.
Khamenei’s address comes as Iran and its rulers face intense pressure at home and abroad after the United States assassinated General Qassem Soleimani, former leader of the elite Quds Force, and the eruption of public anger at Iran’s military after its accidental downing of the commercial airliner soon after it took off from Tehran on January 8.
He described the crash as a “bitter tragedy” and also claimed that “Iran’s enemies” used the crash and the military’s admission to “weaken” the Revolutionary Guard.
“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 Soleimani, he added, referring to the slain head of the IRGC’s foreign operations arm.
“Our enemies were as happy about the plane crash as we were sad … happy that they found something to question the Guard, the armed forces, the system.”
Thousands of worshippers gathered inside a large prayer hall in central Tehran to listen to Khamenei’s address. They packed the area and streets outside the building, chanting: “Death to America.”
Source: Al Jazeera