MSNBC Guests: ‘Nothing Alarming’ in Video of Iran Holding Sailors; Iran Is ‘Comfortable’ 'Partner'

Discussing Iran’s seizure of 10 U.S. Sailors (and release) on Wednesday’s edition of MSNBC’s The Last Word, former UK Ministry of Defense official and foreign affairs correspondent Michael Kay declared that there was “nothing alarming” and instead “standard protocol” taking place in the video released by Iranian state TV of the nine men and one woman being boarded and held for one day.

In addition, Atlantic editor Steve Clemons gushed that the event was another step in “something dramatic” taking place with Iran going “from being one of the most despised nations in our history to something that's a much more comfortable potential partner.”

Turning to Kay after a clip was shown of Secretary of State John Kerry praising the Iran nuclear deal as allowing the sailor’s release to be ensured, host Lawrence O’Donnell asked him if he saw anything that gave him “cause for concern” with “the sailors on the deck of their vessel on their knees, hands behind their heads” and “being fed meals while in custody.”

Kay was only able to respond that “[t]here’s nothing alarming, Lawrence, to me in this,” a seemingly astonished O’Donnell shot back: “What about those shots? The footage on their knees?”

Not backing down off of his claim that he saw nothing insidious, Kay continued by arguing that it seemed to be “standard protocol” in that:

They'll be put in those positions initially just to make sure that they’re searched, they've gotten their weapons on them and just so they're in an orderly fashion so that the people who apprehended them  — the Iranians can watch them. During resistance to interrogation or during interrogation procedures, those types of positions can be used more nefariously. So they can be stress positions and you could be put there for a long in order to break people down.

When O’Donnell turned moments later to Clemons, the MSNBC contributor explained that the early reports seem to be that the servicemen and woman “made some sort of mistake,” but there was something else more important afloat worth mentioning.

“I may be overstating this affect, but something dramatic is happening. Iran has moved from being one of the most despised nations in our history to something that's a much more comfortable potential partner,” Clemons gushed. 

Along with the recent Saudi execution of a Shiite cleric, Clemons hyped that it all represented “a shift happening in America's relationship with two key stakeholders in the Middle East and this is an example of it” as Iran “send[s] a signal that it’s not just about the Iran deal anymore” but “about future actions and where they hope to go.”

The relevant portions of the transcript from MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell on January 13 can be found below.

MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell
January 13, 2016
10:31 p.m. Eastern

LAWRENCE O’DONNELL:: Michael, I want to start with you and your military experience and in all this video we've seen, we've seen the sailors on the deck of their vessel on their knees, hands behind their heads. We've seen video of them being fed meals while in custody. What have you seen in this video that troubles you or cause for concern about what happened in this? 

MICHAEL KAY: There's nothing alarming, Lawrence, to me in this. I mean the —

O’DONNELL: What about those shots? The footage on their knees. 

KAY: The footage that you’re seeing right there on the screen is standard protocol. They'll be put in those positions initially just to make sure that they’re searched, they've gotten their weapons on them and just so they're in an orderly fashion so that the people who apprehended them  — the Iranians can watch them. During resistance to interrogation or during interrogation procedures, those types of positions can be used more nefariously. So they can be stress positions and you could be put there for a long in order to break people down.

(....)

STEVE CLEMONS: Well, I talked to several senior officials at the State Department and the Pentagon today and while we don't know the circumstances yet about what disabled one or both of these ships, everything I’m hearing through the grapevine seems to lead to that these folks, these nine men and one woman made some sort of mistake, so from what we seen in the first accounting, this is accurate, but I think there’s something much more important, Lawrence, is you know, I may be overstating this a effect, but something dramatic is happening. Iran has moved from being one of the most despised nations in our history to something that's a much more comfortable potential partner, whereas we see, you know, John Kerry in his diplomacy and relationship was Javad Zarif were so effective. We saw the Saudis execute Nimr al-Nimr yesterday after John Kerry tried to intervene at the last minute to stop that execution and you see a shift happening in America's relationship with two key stakeholders in the Middle East and this is an example of it. This is an example of Iran is sending a signal that it’s not just about the Iran deal anymore. This is about future actions and where they hope to go.

(....)

KAY: Diplomacy has prevailed. And that's key when you're dealing with state actors. This isn’t Daesh.

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center