MSNBC's Snow, Mohyeldin Spin Sailor Capture-and-Release As Diplomatic Success

Updated with full transcript (19:29 Eastern) | The arrest-and-release of 10 U.S. Navy sailors by the Islamic Republic of Iran was a diplomatic success story for the Obama administration, according to MSNBC's Ayman Mohyeldin and Kate Snow.

Here are some of the highlights (or lowlights), if you will, followed by the transcript of the entire segment from today's edition of MSNBC Live with Kate Snow.

Tell the Truth 2016

KATE SNOW: There are portions where they're eating. They're given food. You know, they look fairly comfortable.

CAL PERRY: And this is the picture Iran wants to paint. Right? That they were treated well. This is a new relationship between the U.S. And Iran. That's one of the more interesting things about this entire event is if this had happened a year ago, we'd be in a very different situation. It would not have been solved so quickly and they probably would not have been treated so well.

[...]

SNOW: For more, let's turn to NBC foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin. He's also here in the newsroom. You and I were talking yesterday at this hour when this was all just breaking and developing and we were speculating about how it might end. It ended pretty well all things considered. Diplomatically speaking.

AYMAN MOHYELDIN: Yeah. And one way to look at it is it could have been a lot worse than the way this ended. And what I mean by that is the Iranians certainly could have prolonged this out. The video images that we saw could have been very different. Um, what we could have seen is that these Americans, the Iranians may have even denied that they had them for a long time, and just kind of leave the international community in a state of suspense...

Below is the full transcript for the segment (emphases mine):

MSNBC
MSNBC Live with Kate Snow
January 13, 2016; 3:17 p.m. Eastern

KATE SNOW: Ten American sailors detained by Iran were released early today after their two small vessels drifted into Iranian waters on Tuesday. The nine men and one woman were allowed to leave just before 4:00 a.m. Eastern time. They were picked up by the U.S. military in international waters.

Iranian State TV then released a video in which a U.S. sailor made an apology for the incursion. We should note, we don't know the circumstances under which this video was shot. We don’t know if the sailor was asked to participate in the video under duress.

UNIDENTIFIED U.S. SAILOR: It was a mistake that was our fault and we apologize for our mistake.

SNOW: More on that video in a moment. But let's start with what happened and NBC's Tehran bureau chief Ali Aruzi.

ALI ARUZI: Kate, Iran’s powerful  Revolutionary Guard issued a statement earlier today saying that all ten American sailors had been freed with the vessel. Initially, the guard said that the sailors and their vessel had been apprehended in Iranian waters after snooping around and acting suspiciously.

Later, a Revolutionary Guard admiral said that after an extensive investigation, they realized the American vessel's navigational equipment failed and they accidentally strayed into Iranian waters.

They said that their activities were not suspicious, nor were they here to conduct any sort of espionage. Now, this could have been a major international incident between the United States and Iran, but it was contained in a diplomatic fashion, which is Rouhani’s style to international relations.

This also came at a very sensitive time, because we’re only days away from the implementation of the nuclear deal. The possibility of a crisis could have jeopardized that and billions of dollars that's expected to flow into Iran for sanctions relief.

But the U.S. sailors weren't set free without a warning from Iran's army chief. He said, “let this be a warning to troublemakers in Congress who want to impose more sanctions on Iran.” Kate, back to you.


SNOW: All right. Ali Aruzi over in Tehran. Let's go back to that new video just in this afternoon. MSNBC's senior editor for video and digital content is Cal Perry and he’s here with me. It's fascinating to watch the video and really watch it. Tell us what we know.

CAL PERRY: Yeah. And let’s keep in mind, this is prime time viewing in Iran. They saved this video, especially this one of the apology and, again, we need to stress to our viewers, we don't know the circumstances here. They saved it for prime time. One of the interesting things about this, when you talk to U.S. military officials, they'll tell you one of the jobs of the commanding officer is to diffuse a situation. Maybe that's what's happening here. We don't know.

As we go to that other video of the boats and you’ll see U.S. military personnel in a very vulnerable position, right?

SNOW: Hands up over their head.

PERRY: This is what the Iranians want to show people in Iran. This is clearly propaganda on their part. What we don’t see is what the Iranians were using to detain these people. We don't see the boats that Iran had in the water. We don’t see shots of Revolutionary Guard. That's for their own operational security. This video was in their hands for some 16, 17 hours. They edited it, they clearly want us to see this.

KATE SNOW: There are portions where they're eating. They're given food. You know, they look fairly comfortable.

CAL PERRY: And this is the picture Iran wants to paint. Right? That they were treated well. This is a new relationship between the U.S. And Iran. That's one of the more interesting things about this entire event is if this had happened a year ago, we'd be in a very different situation. It would not have been solved so quickly and they probably would not have been treated so well.

SNOW: Alright. Cal Perry watching all the video for us. Cal, thanks so much. For more, let's turn to NBC foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin. He's also here in the newsroom. You and I were talking yesterday at this hour when this was all just breaking and developing and we were speculating about how it might end. It ended pretty well all things considered. Diplomatically speaking.

AYMAN MOHYELDIN: Yeah. And one way to look at it is it could have been a lot worse than the way this ended. And what I mean by that is the Iranians certainly could have prolonged this out. The video images that we saw could have been very different.

Um, what we could have seen is that these Americans, the Iranians may have even denied that they had them for a long time, and just kind of leave the international community in a state of suspense and then as we saw in 2007 I believe, when the British sailors were detained, they were held there for some time and probably interrogated and questioned by various Iranian security agencies.

We don't get the impression that that has happened. Obviously we’re going to learn more about it in the coming days once these Americans are debriefed. But for, by most accounts, this ended in one of the best possible ways by anyone’s standards.

SNOW: I want to play a clip of John Kerry earlier today. Here's what the secretary of state had to say.

Secretary of State JOHN KERRY: I also want to thank the Iranian authorities for their cooperation and quick response. All indications suggest or tell us that our sailors were well taken care of, provided with blankets and food and assisted with their return to the fleet earlier today.

SNOW: And then we have Kerry's counterpart over in Iran, the foreign minister Zarif tweeting today, “Happy to see dialog and respect, not threats and impetuousness, swiftly resolved the sailors episode. Let's learn from this latest example.”

First of all, remarkable that both sides as we were saying, just a couple of years ago we probably wouldn't have heard this kind of dialogue. How do you think the Iran nuclear deal plays into what we're hearing today?

MOHYELDIN: Well, I think it was a very important milestone because it did one thing if it did anything. And it allowed Americans to talk to Iranians directly without any consequence. Keep in mind that just to get to the Iranian nuclear talks, they were secretly brokered by Oman.

For years, these two countries never spoke directly to each other They had to be done through a third party intermediary, and that certainly created a lot of mistrust.

But now the fact that you have, within the course of an hour, that the secretary of state can pick up the phone, call the  Iranian foreign minister, and say we have a crisis, an international crisis, and try to resolve it, that is a testament to saying we have an international crisis and try to resolve it, that is a testament to diplomacy.

Now, keep in mind, these two countries are still on opposite sides of some very major conflicts, they are on warring sides. Iran supports the Syrian regime, the U.S. is backing the rebels. In Yemen, Iran is backing the Houthis, the Americans are backing the Saudis.

So in various conflict zones, they are on opposite sides of the war. But when it comes to their own interests, directly, they're picking up the phone and talking to each other about either the nuclear talks, or now as we saw in this case the sailors.

SNOW: And politically speaking, here in the United States, you’ve got very different reactions coming from the Republican candidates out there. We just got new sound in from Marco Rubio earlier today talking about Iran. Let's listen.

Sen. MARCO RUBIO (R-Fla.): You know why these things happen? Because they know they can get away with it when Barack Obama's in office. They know they can humiliate us. Now, look, this is not what you do. This is not some innocent thing like some people suspected. If it was just some innocent thing, these guys' motor failed and so they wandered into these waters, the Iranians would have returned them immediately. Here’s what they wouldn't have done: taken pictures of them, taking video of them, put it up on Iranian TV to show people, look how we're bringing America and humiliating them.

SNOW: He's saying they intentionally are humiliating us, perhaps with that video that we just watched. Is that possible?

MOHYELDIN: It’s certainly possible. There’s,you know, you can't rule anything out with the Iranian government. But you also have to look at it from the Iranian perspective. They want to make sure that if these Americans are released that the account that they're giving is consistent with what the Iranians did.

So, one of the arguments that you can hear the Iranians make is we wanted to show the world that these individuals were taken into our custody, from the moment that they were taken into our custody, they were not shot at, they were not harassed, they were fed, that they were given blankets, they were given food.

And the explanation for the apology might be that we wanted to show that even by this American sailor's account they made the mistake of coming into our waters. We didn't go in pursuit of the American sailors.

So, Marco Rubio’s certainly bringing up a lot of valid points and certainly a very possible scenario. But at the same time, you have to actually put yourself in the Iranians’ shoes to see what are they also trying to say with this statement.

And they want to make sure that they are not going to be criticized by the international community for mistreating the American soldiers [sic], that they didn't go out into these waters and actually capture these Americans, which would have been a much more serious violation and perhaps this why we're seeing that testimony from that sailor.

SNOW: Ayman Mohyeldin, always good to see you. Thanks so much.

# # #

Foreign Policy Iran MSNBC MSNBC Live with Kate Snow Obama Watch Video Kate Snow Ayman Mohyeldin

Sponsored Links