Middle East

Iran media calm about US sailors' incursion

Iran's state Channel One reports on the arrest of US sailors Image copyright Iran Channel One TV
Image caption Iran news bulletins avoided the usual anti-Western invective in reporting the story

Iranian state media's coverage of the arrest of 10 US sailors after they strayed into Iranian waters was studiously restrained and measured in tone.

The pejorative terms usually reserved for the US and other Western powers - such as "global arrogance" and "enemies" - have been conspicuous by their absence.

State TV and radio reports did stress that the US incursion was "illegal" and that Tehran wanted an apology. It later reported that it had got it, though Washington denied this.

But Iranian reports also highlighted remarks by the naval commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Adm Ali Fadavi, saying he was broadly satisfied with the US authorities' account of the incident.

In an interview with state-run Channel One, he said he was convinced that the incursion was not premeditated or aimed at espionage, but the unintentional result of mechanical failure.

In a small sideswipe, Adm Fadavi also accused the US sailors of "unprofessional behaviour".

He complained of actions by the American aircraft carrier in the region, the USS Harry S Truman, that he said showed the US was not committed to working for "calm and security" in the region.

Courtesy

But this was one of the few sour notes in a dispute where both sides seemed anxious to avoid any possibility of inflaming the situation at a key time for the Iran nuclear deal.

The state news agency Irna - which rarely reports US officials' statements - filed a report quoting White House spokesman Josh Earnest as saying that the sailors were safe and being treated with courtesy.

Image copyright Sepahnews
Image caption The Revolutionary Guards published pictures of the nine men and one woman being held

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards' news website, Sepah, later published pictures of the US servicemen - looking comfortable if slightly bored - and their vessel.

Overall, the mood music was far less tense and confrontational than during the capture of British sailors in disputed waters in 2007, with Iran insisting they strayed into its territory.

Then, Iranian officials and media initially accused the UK servicemen of spying.

Iranian TV broadcast footage showing one of the Royal Navy sailors - upon repeated prompting by his interlocutor - stressing that the British had "strayed into Iranian waters without permission", and apologising for their actions.

Iran later released the sailors as a "gift" to the UK.

Hard-line media in particular appeared eager to use the incident to humiliate Britain - seen by many Iranians as has having frequently behaved as a malevolent colonial power towards their country in the past.

A report by the conservative news agency Fars (in Persian) even quoted a Revolutionary Guards officer as saying that some of the British naval personnel had shown fear when being arrested.

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