Although the government and news media seem to be adopting Shakespeare’s famous maxim, “All’s well that end’s well,” the back story behind the seizure and eventual release of 10 American sailors by Iran is not so simple.
Vice-President Joe Biden insisted "the Iranians picked up both boats — as we have picked up Iranian boats that needed to be rescued .. [they] realized they were there in distress and said they would release them, and released them — like ordinary nations would do."
Yet Iran can hardly be called an "ordinary nation.” The Islamic Republic leveraged the incident to humiliate the U.S., forcing the sailors to apologize and acknowledge their “fantastic” treatment by Iran. Not just a typical "rescue."
Iranian brinkmanship, an art unto itself, was played to perfection. Footage aired on Iranian Press TV in English (see below) showed uncomfortable U.S. sailors sitting on Persian carpets laden with food, the lone female sitting in a corner sequestered behind her male compatriots with a hijab covering her hair.
Films of their “surrender” — on their knees with their hands behind their heads –featured prominently in the Iranian press coverage as did all the weapons contained on the ship.
Still Biden insisted it was all in a normal day’s work. “When you have a problem with the boat, (do) you apologize the boat had a problem? No,” Biden said. “And there was no looking for any apology. This was just standard nautical practice.”
Others were more blunt. “This incident in the Persian Gulf, which probably will not be the American forces’ last mistake in the region, should be a lesson to troublemakers in the U.S. Congress,” said Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, head of Iran’s armed forces.
One wonders what the lesson might have been if Iran had already been granted the billions of dollars in sanctions relief instead of being just days away receiving it.
Watch Iranian TV coverage of the capture and apology (voices begin after three minutes):
Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org