Iran’s state television released new footage Wednesday of 10 U.S. Navy sailors detained by Tehran that appears to show one of the men in tears. U.S. military officials told CNN the video, released by broadcaster IRIB and titled “American Tears,” is likely authentic.
None of the defense officials CNN talked to could say why the sailor was crying in the video. But as CNN reported several weeks ago, an official said the sailors were “upset” by the incident, which was “overwhelming.” The sense was that the sailors, who ended up being released the next day, had no way of knowing what would happen to them and were struck by the enormity of the situation when their captors began filming them.
The State Department on Wednesday strongly criticized the latest footage.
“We’ve been clear, and the Secretary was clear, about our disgust at seeing the pictures and video of our sailors being used clearly for propaganda purposes,” State Department spokesman John Kirby told CNN. “That remains the case with the newly released pictures and videos.”
Kirby said that the Defense Department is looking into the incident.
The new footage Wednesday drew quick condemnation from Republicans, who have been fiercely critical of the Obama administration’s engagement with Iran during talks to reach an agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program.
“The Iranian regime’s release of new photos of U.S. Navy sailors illegally detained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard represents the latest Iranian provocation against the United States, and yet another attempt to humiliate American military personnel,” Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said in a statement.
The sailors, nine men and one woman, strayed into Iranian waters after one of their two boats experienced engine trouble while traveling through the Persian Gulf on January 12. President Barack Obama, delivering his last State of the Union speech that night, came under fire for not mentioning the servicemen, who were held for about a day before Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated their release.
The incident came just weeks after the U.S. and its allies had reached a final nuclear agreement with Tehran that angered the hardliners in Iran, where the sailors provided a propaganda goldmine, and days before the implementation of the agreement was to go into effect. At the time of their release, one commander of the Iranian Revolution Guard Corps said the Americans “started crying” after their arrest.
Shortly after the sailors were freed, Iran released footage showing one American sailor apologizing for the intrusion into Iranian waters and praising Iran for the kind treatment they’d received. “We thank you very much for your hospitality and your assistance,” one sailor said in the video.
U.S. military officials later said that the sailors were ordered to “look happy” in that footage. Kerry used diplomatic ties forged with Iran’s foreign minister to defuse the potentially explosive situation, but said afterwards that he was “very angry” that the Americans had been used for propaganda purposes.
His comments, to John Berman on CNN’s “New Day,” after the sailors release were noticeably stronger than the tepid response of U.S. officials after the sailor’s detention initially became known. Days after their release, and before Kerry’s tone sharpened, the U.S. also secured the freedom of five American citizens held in Iranian prison.