James Carafano: Iran Ayatollah Khamenei 'really nervous' about anti-government protests

A rare public appearance by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows how nervous his regime is about the "level of anger and mistrust" inside Iran today, retired Army Lt. Col. James Carafano said Friday.

Appearing on "Outnumbered: Overtime" with host Harris Faulkner, Carafano noted that the Ayatollah had not been seen at public prayers in Tehran for eight years. Khamenei used the platform to praise the country's retaliatory strike against the U.S. over the killing of one of its top generals. He also appeared to call President Trump a clown who cannot be trusted.

IRAN'S SUPREME LEADER CALLS TRUMP A CLOWN, PRAISES MISSILE ATTACK IN RARE APPEARANCE

“The villainous U.S. government repeatedly says that they are standing by the Iranian people. They lie,” Khamenei said. “If you are standing with the Iranian people, it is only to stab them in the heart with their venomous daggers.”

He also insisted Iran would not bow to U.S. pressure after months of crushing sanctions and called Washington’s decision to kill Gen. Qassem Soleimani earlier this month a "cowardly" hit.

However, Carafano said that Khameini's remarks seem to be more about domestic policy than confrontation with the United States and putting a "strong face on the administration and his government."

"Look, he would not be doing that if they weren't really, really, nervous about the level of anger and mistrust inside Iran today," he added.

Carafano, vice president of the Heritage Foundation's Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, told Faulkner that, in many ways, any unrest within the Middle Eastern country is "just an extension of ongoing protests we've seen against the regime."

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"And, [protesters are] really blaming the regime for their circumstances, not blaming the United States...for the sanctions," he said. "But, the Iranians [in government] were essentially taking all the money and spending it on surrogates, spending it on adventurism, and not really investing in the Iranian people."

"Now look, we don't know how really widespread that is," Carafano added, "but when you see things like the Iranian students ... walking down the street and then consciously trying to walk around images of the American [and] Israeli flag, we have not seen anything like that since somebody took a sledgehammer to the Berlin Wall."

Fox News' Edmund DeMarche, Adam Shaw, Louis Casiano, Greg Norman, and the Associated Press contributed to this report.