Iran’s supreme leader called the accidental downing of a Ukrainian airliner a “bitter” tragedy Friday but said it should not overshadow the “sacrifice” of a top commander killed in a US drone strike.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was giving the sermon at the main weekly Muslim prayers in Tehran, after a traumatic month in which the country had appeared on the brink of war with the United States and shot down the Ukrainian jet by mistake with the loss of all 176 people on board.
“The plane crash was a bitter accident, it burned through our heart,” Khamenei said in an address punctuated by cries of “Death to America” from the crowd.
“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 Revolutionary Guards.
The last time Khamenei led Friday prayers at Tehran’s Mosalla mosque was in February 2012, on the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic revolution and at a time of crisis over the Iran nuclear issue.
His latest appearance comes at a tumultuous moment for the country, which had seemed headed for conflict earlier in January after the drone strike killed Soleimani outside Baghdad airport, prompting retaliatory Iranian missile strikes against Iraqi bases housing US troops.
The strikes, which caused significant material damage, wounded 11 US troops, US Central Command…