HERNDON, Va., Feb. 25 (UPI) -- In an Iranian mosque with hundreds of worshipers present and thousands more watching on television, he denigrated the United States and urged his listeners to chant "Death to America."
He called America's leaders liars.
He mocked U.S. President Barack Obama for "constantly threatening us that the military option is on the table. Iran laughs at these threats ... We know that the military threats that all options are on the table serve America's domestic interests ... They don't have the guts to do it and they know it."
This was the Feb. 14 sermon -- not of the famous boxer Muhammad Ali -- but of Ayatollah Muhammad Ali Movahedi-Kermani.
A boxing metaphor seems appropriate as Iran's leadership uses the United States' leadership as a punching bag.
Teddy Roosevelt's approach to foreign policy, famously quoted as "Speak softly and carry a big stick," counseled not to threaten verbally but leave no doubt force will be used if necessary.
Despite the ayatollah's protestations, Obama has embraced a foreign policy with Iran 180 degrees out of sync with Roosevelt's, endeavoring to "speak softly and carry no stick."
Iranians fear Obama as much as they do "Pee Wee Herman."
The mullahs also mock Obama for suggesting the interim nuclear deal reached last November is something other than what it really is. Obama says it will stop Tehran's nuclear program; Iran says it won't. Obviously, the best way to resolve this dispute is to release all the deal's terms, which Obama inexplicably refuses to do.
But why, if the Iranians know all the details of the deal anyway, keep them from the U.S. public?
While the mullahs mock Obama for untruthfulness, the American people are left to accept his assurances otherwise. Meanwhile, we ponder the ayatollah's statement Obama is only telling us what he wants us to hear.
Tehran has determined Obama offers no "big stick" to stop it. And, at a time when the president should be doing all in his power to demonstrate otherwise, he acts contrarily.
A year ago, the United States had two aircraft carriers stationed in the Persian Gulf. But, in an effort aimed at appeasing Iran, one carrier has been removed with the other spending more time outside the gulf than in it.
The two-carrier presence in the region, with at least one in the Persian Gulf, was originally ordered by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2010 after Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz.
And how has Tehran responded to the United States' withdrawal of a carrier from the region as Washington seeks to tone down tensions to hopefully negotiate a permanent nuclear deal with Iran? Tehran announces it is sending a "fleet" of ships -- at least two warships with support vessels -- to sail off the U.S. Atlantic maritime border -- 14 miles off U.S. shores. While Iran twice previously declared it would do this, it is making good on its declaration this time.
Most experts suggest the aging Iranian ships pose no real threat to the United States as their vessels really are subjecting themselves to great risk in the open sea. This analysis fails to recognize a key difference in how the Americans and Iranians view use of their respective naval assets.
The U.S. Navy's mission is to strike and return -- i.e., possessing the capability to take the war to the enemy, neutralize it and then return home.
Iran's naval mission is a one-way trip. Its theocratic leadership has instilled in its Iranian Republican Guard Corps forces the mindset death incurred confronting an enemy paves one's path to a pleasurable after-life.
For Iranian crews, a safe return home is unnecessary. They embrace the suicide mission mentality, similar to disillusioned World War II Japanese kamikaze pilots -- only on steroids. This may not be their mission -- yet.
It is all part of Iran's "Sacred Defense" rationale. IRGC Quds Force Commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani notes: "If the Shiite clergy seeks to present the result of its efforts in the form of a comprehensive exhibition, the Sacred Defense era must be noted as the best demonstration of this act ...There is no doubt today that martyrs in the country are considered the strongest and most persistent images. The people live with their images and love their way."
(Interestingly, however, no mullahs are lining up for the job.)
A 2008 Washington Institute for the Near East Policy report identified a more serious Iranian naval threat, concluding: "despite Iran's overall defensive posture in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, it could take pre-emptive action in response to a perceived threat of imminent attack ... (In a U.S. attack) the scale of Iran's response would likely be proportional to the scale of the damage inflicted on Iranian assets."
Meanwhile, the IRGC naval commander threatens to sink the U.S. carrier in his backyard should military action be taken against Iran. And, in a declaration that should worry all Sunni Muslims, Suleimani claims Iran is the rightful owner of the Islamic world.
Underscoring no change in its view of the United States as the "Great Satan," a day after announcing its naval fleet deployment, Tehran broadcast the television documentary "The Nightmare of Vultures" simulating its drones attacking a U.S. carrier and Israeli cities (hitting mostly civilian buildings). Neither target was shown able to defend itself. (For clarification, Americans are the "vultures.")
Iran's mullahs are on a speeding train heading for nuclear capability. Obama's Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper testified recently the Iranians already have the capability, only now needing to decide to make a nuclear weapon. Tehran firmly believes Allah engineers the train, ensuring its arrival at its destination by making Iran's enemies powerless to interfere.
Obama's appeasement policy sure makes Allah's job a lot easier.
(A retired U.S. Marine, Lt. Col. James Zumwalt served in the Vietnam War, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf War. He has written "Bare Feet, Iron Will -- Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam's Battlefields," "Living the Juche Lie: North Korea's Kim Dynasty" and "Doomsday: Iran -- The Clock is Ticking.")
(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)