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Iran Releases New Footage Of U.S. Sailors

U.S. sailors are pictured on a boat with their hands on their heads at an unknown location in this still image taken from video taken on January 12-13.
U.S. sailors are pictured on a boat with their hands on their heads at an unknown location in this still image taken from video taken on January 12-13.

Iran has released more footage and images of U.S. sailors who were briefly detained last month by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), including images that appear to show one of them crying.

The United States said the footage was clearly being used as propaganda, and expressed "disgust."

The footage was reportedly aired by Iran's state-controlled television. A number of news sites and hard-line news agencies, including the IRGC-affiliated Tasnim news agency, published the footage and the images.

One video clip appears to show a sailor shedding tears and wiping them from his face.

The move appears to be aimed at embarrassing the United States, which hard-liners in the Iranian establishment say remains Tehran's enemy despite renewed diplomacy between the two countries that helped produce a nuclear accord that was implemented last month.

Under the deal reached in July 2015 between Iran and six world powers including the United States, Tehran has significantly limited its sensitive nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief.

State Department spokesman Samuel Werberg said the footage was "clearly being used for propaganda purposes."

"We've been clear, and [Secretary of State John Kerry] was clear, about our disgust at seeing the pictures and video of our sailors being used clearly for propaganda purposes. That remains the case with the newly released pictures and videos," Werberg told RFE/RL in an e-mail.

He added that the U.S. Department of Defense was still looking into the incident.

The footage was released following a threat earlier this month by IRGC navy commander Admiral Ali Fadavi, who said that Iran would release additional footage of the U.S. sailors "if the Americans' acts of malevolence continue."

The sailors, nine men and one woman, were captured on January 12 after mistakenly straying into Iran's territorial waters. They were released a few hours later on January 13 following several phone conversations between Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Following their release, state-controlled television aired footage of the U.S. sailors on their knees with their hands behind their heads, as well as a televised interview with one the sailors, who is shown "apologizing" for trespassing.

Kerry later said that he was "frustrated and angry" at the video released by Iran.

Earlier this month, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei personally awarded the IRGC commanders involved in the capture of the U.S. sailors and their vessels with one of the country's highest honors.

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    Golnaz Esfandiari

    Golnaz Esfandiari is managing editor of RFE/RL's Radio Farda, which breaks through government censorship to deliver accurate news and provide a platform for informed discussion and debate to audiences in Iran. She has reported from Afghanistan and Haiti and is one of the authors of The Farda Briefing newsletter. Her work has been cited by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major publications. Born and raised in Tehran, she is fluent in Persian, French, English, and Czech.

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


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