Khamenei at one point cried openly at Mondays funeral.
“Oh Allah, they are in need of your mercy, and you are exalted above punishing your servants,” Khamenei said during a mass prayer as he stood over a flag-draped casket with the remains of Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad, Iraq on Friday.
Khameneis voice cracked during a funeral procession unlike any in Irans recent history. Police and state media outlets said attendees numbered into the millions.
Video footage showed crowds filling streets and chanting “Death to America.” The funeral came months after anti-government protests prompted authorities to kill demonstrators.
Khamenei was close to Soleimani. The leader Iranian was photographed more than once embracing Soleimani in ways that are customary in Iran for fathers and their beloved sons.
In one such photograph from 2018, Khamenei, seated on an elevated platform, leans down and kisses Soleimanis forehead. In another image from 2017, Khamenei is seen kissing Soleimanis cheek during Ashoura, a religious day of mourning among Shiites.
Unlike other military commanders in the Revolutionary Guard Corps., the 62-year-old general answered only to the 80-year-old Khamenei.
So revered was he by Khamenei, that the supreme leader was awarded Irans highest military order in March. Irans Tasnim News Agency reported that Soleimani is the only Iranian military official to receive the Order of Zolfaghar since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
When pinning the medal on Soleimani, the Iranian leader said he hoped God would reward the general and help him live a blissful life that ends with martyrdom.
“Of course not any time soon,” Khamenei said, adding the “Islamic Republic needs him for years to come.”
Khamenei visited Soleimanis house the day after the generals death to offer condolences to his grieving widow and grown children. He also ordered three days of mourning, culminating with the funeral, and “harsh retaliation” against the United States.
President Donald Trump and Iranian leaders have traded barbs since Soleimanis killing, with no military action taken yet by either side.
Soleimanis replacement said on Monday that Iran would “certainly” take retaliatory actions.