January 26, 2016: Nearly two weeks after Iran’s IRGC took 10 United States sailors into captivity, Iran’s leaders and media continue to use the questionably legal incident for anti-US propaganda purposes.
The latest media coverage shows Ayatollah Khamenei meeting with the IRGC naval forces that carried out that 12 January operation. He stated, “Certainly it was the divine job that sent the Americans straying into our territorial waters only to be promptly captured with their hands behind their heads.”
This image of the US sailors with their hands behind their heads has been praised by the Iranians as a show of strength and military supremacy over the Americans. Khamenei also posted a video on his YouTube account praising the IRGC and claiming evidence of “God’s deed” in the event.
Khamenei also made comments last week to the Iranian Parliament, lauding the IRGC’s action against the US soldiers. “They displayed Iran’s identity and power against the enemy aggression,” he said. He added that “the Iranian officials should also show similar actions in all other fields and show powerful reaction wherever the enemy violates Iran’s national interests.”
The rhetoric by IRGC military officials themselves advance the narrative along the same line as the Ayatollah’s. During a live television interview this past weekend, General Hossein Salami, second in command of the IRGC, said that this incident was a “determining development” in the region and proof of Iran’s military might.
“We will continue to boost our defense capability and our missiles will be updated day by day,” Salami stated, adding that despite the nuclear deal Iran reserves the right to develop conventional weapons in order to “defend its independence and territorial integrity.”
The video footage captured of the arrest has served the propaganda interests of the Iranians at a time when they are increasing subversive influence in the region. It seems likely that they will use this incident to advance the narrative of Iranian military supremacy vis a vis the United States for some time to come.