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Analysis: Khamenei In Rare Sermon Reiterates Regional Ambitions, No Negotiations With US

IRAN -- Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei leads the main weekly Muslim prayers in Tehran, January 17, 2020

The Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has claimed that Iran's missile attack on the Ain Al-Asad military base in Iraq has undermined the United States' position as a superpower.

He characterized the Revolutionary Guard’s Qods Force as "combatants without borders," as a sign he remains ever more committed to Tehran's regional ambitions and praised its former commander Qassem Soleimani for organizing and strengthening it. He also described the killing of Soleimani by U.S. forces as an "assassination."

This was Khamenei's first presence as Tehran's Friday Prayers Imam since 2011. Some observers speculated in recent days that his presence at the Friday Prayers after 8 years may mean that he has a significant message to deliver. Others said his long absence showed he is no longer physically fit for the job.

In the meantime, several rounds of nationwide protests culminating in November 2019 have undermined Khamenei's authority as protesters chanted slogans calling on him to step down. Some have even called for his death.

Footage released by IRGC-linked Fars news agency showed some of the busses that brought people from outside Tehran to the prayer venue to boost the turnout.

The state TV that has been encouraging Iranians to turn up for Khamenei's speech throughout the week, Friday morning also showed several rows of soldiers sitting among the crowd.

Reports from Tehran say there was tight security measures in place around the prayers site further to thousands of riot police and IRGC troops that have been positioned in most parts of Tehran since mid-November when protests broke out following a three-fold gas price hike.

As far as the content of his sermon is concerned, he did not say anything he had not mentioned in earlier speeches.

Aware of the public's negative attitude toward the way the government handled the downing of a Ukrainian airliner by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, he did not even try to justify the attack. Instead, he expressed sympathy and solidarity with the families of the crash victims and told a story about the mother of a victim pledging allegiance to him.

Khamenei praised the people for their turnout at Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani's funeral and expressed appreciation for the IRGC for its missile attack on a military base in Iraq, adding that the two events were the highlights of the past two weeks.

Elsewhere in his speech in an allusion to a tweet by President Donald Trump, he described U.S. officials who say they are standing with the Iranian people as clowns, adding that they are standing with Iranians with a dagger to put in their back.

He said U.S. and British media have tried to use the missile attack on a civilian airliner in Tehran to undermine Soleimani's death and Iran's attack on Ain Al-Asad.

Meanwhile, he thanked family members of the victims for not being influenced by foreigners' propaganda. He said the mother of a victim sent him a letter pledging allegiance.

Khamenei criticized the U.K., France and Germany for trying to take the Iranian nuclear case to the United Nations Security Council and accused them of having armed Iraq's Saddam Hussain against Iran in the 1980s and even arming him with chemical weapons.

He characterized the EU-3 as the servants of the United States stressing that neither the U.S. nor Europe can make Iran surrender to pressures.

"These negotiating gentlemen are the same as the terrorists in Baghdad who killed Soleimani," he said. However, he stressed that Iran will not negotiate with the United States although it may enter negotiations with others.