New video broadcast on Iranian state TV today appears to show a U.S. sailor crying while briefly detained by Iran in early-January. He was one of 10 U.S. sailors aboard two small Navy vessels that strayed into Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf.
The video released by the Islamic Republic of Iran News Network appears similar to footage aired at the time the sailors were detained, a U.S. Department of Defense official said.
The original footage showed the moment of their detention at sea with their hands behind their heads, as well as all the sailors sitting around a large room.
The new footage shows one of the sailors in the room with what appear to be red and moistened eyes. Later in the footage, the same sailor is shown using what appears to be a tissue or handkerchief to wipe his eyes and nose. It is unclear what circumstances may have prompted the sailor's apparent tears.
Commenting on the new video, Cmdr. Kevin Stephens, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, told ABC News, “as Secretary [of State John] Kerry has said, we are disgusted by the exploitation of our sailors in Iranian propaganda.”
He called the Jan. 12 detention of U.S. sailors “outrageous and unacceptable.”
“Professional mariners understand that it is a duty and obligation to assist other mariners who suffer mechanical problems or who find themselves off track at sea,” he said in a statement to ABC News. “In fact, our Navy has assisted Iranian mariners in distress in the Gulf region seven times since 2012.”
Through his spokesman, Kerry, who successfully finalized an international agreement with Iran over its nuclear program just days after the detainment, strongly disapproved of Iran's decision to publish these images.
“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," spokesman John Kirby said in a statement to ABC News. "That remains the case with the newly released pictures and videos."
Five days after the release of the sailors, U.S. Central Command released an initial timeline of events surrounding the detention.
It said the vessels drifted into Iranian territorial waters near Iran’s Farsi Island in the middle of the Persian Gulf while on a journey from Kuwait to Bahrain the afternoon of January 12th.
That statement referred to navigational error and said one of the vessels had engine problems. While the vessels stopped to assess the mechanical problem, Iranian boats approached the sailors.
The 10 sailors were kept in an unknown location on Iran’s Farsi Island before being freed the following day.
It is still unclear why the U.S. vessels entered Iranian waters or whether the sailors knew their exact location.
The Navy is conducting an investigation to provide “a more complete accounting of events,” but it has yet to be released.
The report will rely heavily on the testimony of the sailors and their own version of events, which could provide more context to these new images.
Several weeks ago, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter commented on his initial reaction to seeing the videos of the sailors on their knees.
“I was very, very angry at it,” he said. “Remember, as you’re thinking about our guys, that you’re looking through the lens of the Iranians.”
This new video was released the day before the 37th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic revolution when the U.S.-supported government of Mohammad Reza Shah was toppled.