As the Iranian Navy expands its reach and adds new capabilities, Iranian officials continue to declare that its main foe is the U.S. Navy. In the latest example—excerpted here—Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi, commander of the paramilitary Basij (volunteer) forces, includes the threats against the U.S. Navy in a broad diatribe delivered to Basij forces in the Iranian shrine city of Qom.
Naqdi’s mindset is interesting: he began his speech by accusing the United States of launching a full-scale cultural war against the Islamic Republic, citing the U.S.-based Persian language satellite channels, the Baha’i faith, and the alleged U.S. promotion of vulgarity among Iranian youth. He also blamed Iran’s substantial drug problem and alcoholism on a deliberate plot by the United States to corrupt Iran morally. He concluded his speech by warning against the temptation of some Iranian politicians or diplomats to negotiate with the United States, reminding them that the United States simply wants to return Iran to the subjugation it experienced during the Shah’s rule.
While some might dismiss Naqdi’s speech as merely conforming to the excesses of the Islamic Republic’s normal rhetoric, especially in towns like Qom that are renowned for loyalty to the revolutionary principles, the parallels between Naqdi’s arguments and those of radical 1970s-era Muslim Brotherhood clerics are striking. Abdullah Azzam, for example, best known as Al Qaeda founder Usama Bin Laden’s spiritual mentor, taught in Saudi Arabia that Western culture was a deliberate plot to separate Muslim youth from God and that, therefore, it was permissible both to respond violently and consider that response to be defensive in nature. While Naqdi likely exaggerates the current Iranian capability against the U.S. Navy, his focus on the U.S. presence suggests Iranian hostility toward the United States and its presence in the Persian Gulf has not diminished.