A video purporting to show a US Navy sailor apologizing to Iranian authorities for drifting into Iran’s waters on Tuesday has circulated on social media after it was broadcast by state-sponsored television Wednesday.
The video is in line with an IRGC statement released earlier in the morning saying that the sailors, who were detained by Iran overnight at an IRGC base on Farsi Island, were released unharmed “after they apologised” for the incident
Experts said the video represents a significant propaganda victory for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the hardline political and military organisation that controls virtually every aspect of Iranian society under the command of Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The video appears to show a young US Navy sailor — sitting next to a fellow sailor among the nine others detained by the IRGC overnight — saying he is sorry for the “mistake” to a member of the IRGC, who asks him in Farsi if he will apologise.
The unidentified IRGC soldier then asks the young sailor if it was clear in the sailors’ GPS system — which was confiscated by the IRGC — that the US ships had entered Iranian waters. The sailor replies, “I believe so.”
That is according to a translation provided to Business Insider by Iranian research analyst Amir Toumajof the Washington, DC-based think tank Foundation for Defence of Democracies.
“The IRGC is loving this,” Toumaj said in an email, referring to the series of videos that have been released Wednesday purporting to show the arrest. “It allows them to humiliate the US military while demonstrating strength and, in the end, cool heads.”
The Pentagon confirmed Wednesday morning that the sailors — nine men and one woman — were released and unharmed, but the taped apology stands in stark contrast to US Secretary of State John Kerry’s insistence that the US had not apologised to Iran over the incident. Vice President Joe Biden also forcefully rejected the need for any kind of apology.
“When you have a problem with the boat, [do] you apologise the boat had a problem? No,” Biden said in an interview with CBS on Wednesday. “And there was no looking for any apology. This was just standard nautical practice.
A senior State Department official told reporters Wednesday that “I can say unequivocally that the US government did not apologise to the Government of Iran in any way during the course of this.” That still appears to be true.
In his daily press briefing on Wednesday, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the department was still determining the authenticity of the video. But he noted that images of prisoners are not supposed to be broadcast under Geneva Convention terms.
Initially, the IRGC had accused the sailors of “snooping,” noting that their GPS system had registered the boats’ entry into Iranian waters, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. The IRGC ultimately determined that the sailors’ entry was not intentional.
“Reviews, investigation, and review of their navigation system show they entered Iranian waters unintentionally and were not aware,” IRGC Navy Commander Brigadier General Ali Fadavi said in a statement following the incident.
“In the end, they and their diplomats accepted their mistakes and were committed not to repeat them. Our officials decided to release them, and the detained [sailors] were released in international waters,” he continued. “This incident has many messages for the entire world based on the power of the armed forces and intelligence and strength of the IRGC.”
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