Iran's Two Minds About a U.S. Rescue of its Fishermen

An American Navy destroyed helped rescue Iranian fishermen who had been captured by pirates off Somalia. It was either a humanitarian gesture or a PR stunt, depending which Iranian official was speaking.

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A U.S. Navy destroyer rescued 13 Iranian fishermen who had been held for more than 40 days by Somali pirates, drawing praise from one office of the Iranian government. But just the one office.

While Iran's Foreign Ministry welcomed the move by the U.S. to intervene and rescue the fishermen, the country's Fars news service took a far more negative view, suggesting that the rescue had been puffed up for publicity by the Americans, the Associated Press reported.

The rescue of Iranian sailors by American forces is considered a humanitarian gesture, and we welcome this behavior," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said, according to the AP, which quoted a state television service. The reaction from Fars was a bit different.

The Fars report noted that attacks by Somali pirates in the region are common and said Iran’s navy has itself freed many mariners held by pirates in recent years without seeking to highly publicize it.

Amid escalating tension with Iran over its nuclear program, the Obama administration reveled in delivering Friday’s announcement and highlighted the fact that the rescuing ships were the same ones Iran’s army chief had just said were no longer welcome in the Persian Gulf.

“Basically, rescuing trading and fishing boats from the hands of pirates in the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden is considered a completely normal issue,” Fars said. “A U.S. helicopter filming the rescue operation from the first minute makes it look like a Hollywood drama with specific locations and actors. It shows the Americans tried to publicize it through the media and present the American warship as a savior.”

The agency went on to note that Iran "has rescued various foreign ships from the hands of pirates … but never publicized that," AP reported.

Translation: So what? We rescue people from pirates all the time!

Al Jazeera has video, and an ironic note: The very U.S. vessels that conducted the rescue were among those the Iranian government recently demanded leave the Strait of Hormuz.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.