Speaking at an event celebrating the first anniversary of the seizure of American sailors, a top Iranian general praised the country’s naval forces for defying and humiliating the United States. “The arrest of American gunmen struck out at the pride of the Arrogance [United States] in the heart of the Persian Gulf,” said Brigadier General Hossein Salami, the deputy commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). Calling last year’s incident a great achievement for the Islamic Revolution and Iran’s “struggles” against the United States, Salami warned: “Any power that seeks to, deliberately or unintentionally, violate [Iran’s] territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, it will encounter the superior power of Sepah’s [IRGC] naval forces.”
It was one year ago on this day that the IRGC Navy commandeered two US Navy vessels and detained 10 American sailors after they drifted into Iranian waters. Although US Secretary of State John Kerry’s diplomacy with his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif helped to secure their release quickly, the IRGC Navy did everything to humiliate the detainees. IRGC-affiliated news outlets published a series of photos of the captives held at gunpoint and forced on their knees, and Iran’s state TV aired a video showing one sailor apologizing. Last March, the IRGC announced a plan to build a monument commemorating the sailors’ seizure.
The capture and mistreatment of US sailors, just days before the UN was scheduled to lift nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, indicated that the Iranian regime would continue to see the US as an enemy and had no intention of a broader rapprochement with Washington. And Salami’s remarks, coupled with the fact that Iran celebrates the anniversary of the incident, show that the Iranian behavior has not changed. Moreover, the IRGC commander’s words of admiration and encouragement for the Iranian Navy’s belligerent actions increase the risk of miscalculations and dangerous confrontations between Iranian and US naval forces in the future.