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Iran's Top Nuke Negotiator: Seizure of 10 U.S. Sailors 'a Sign of Our Might'

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Iranian officials stressed that they taught the U.S. a lesson by seizing 10 sailors from two boats in the Persian Gulf.

The semi-official Fars News Agency reported Wednesday that Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Secretary of State John Kerry that the U.S. needed to apologize before the sailors were released. According to a statement from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, “the Americans have extended an apology,” Fars said.

Zarif tweeted today: “Happy to see dialog and respect, not threats and impetuousness, swiftly resolved the episode. Let’s learn from this latest example.”

Washington denies any “official” apology was offered. Iran broadcast a video with one of the sailors stiffly apologizing and thanking Iran for “fantastic” treatment.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araqchi said the detention of the sailors was “a sign of our might.”

“This shows Iran’s internal power as we powerfully seized the military vessel of the world’s big military power and then freed its personnel powerfully after ensuring of their unintentional entry into our territorial waters,” Araqchi, who was the chief nuclear negotiator for Iran in the P5+1 deal, said on Wednesday.

Iranian Armed Forces’ Chief of Staff Major General Hassan Firouzabadi said the incident once again proved the U.S. forces’ “vulnerability,” according to Iran’s Press TV.

“We hope the incident in north of the Persian Gulf, which will not be probably the American forces’ last mistake in the region, will be a lesson to those seeking to sabotage [Iran’s nuclear agreement] at US Congress,” Firouzabadi said.

This morning, the Obama administration was still pushing the narrative that the nuke deal had opened great lines of diplomacy that led to the swift return of the sailors.

“We don’t have full confirmation on exactly what happened, what led those sailors into those waters and what happened there. We also don’t have a complete picture of the initial moments of where they met with the Iranian navy. These are the IRGC navy, not the Iranian state navy,” State Department press secretary John Kirby told Fox this morning.

“Look, I have sailed up there in those waters myself, and that was longer time ago, of course. It’s tense — it was tense then. It’s tense now. And one of the things that I have learned through the — my 30 years in Navy — actually two lessons: one is, first reports are always wrong. You got to give it some time. They are going to debrief these sailors, they are going to figure out what happened,” he said. “And number two, there’s always two or three different sides to every particular story. So, we need to let the investigators in the Navy do the inquiry and figure out what happened here.”

“And before we jump to conclusions, but what we are happy about here at the State Department, is that we were able to get these guys back, you know, again within 24 hours.”

On discussion of whether Iran violated the Geneva Conventions with the images of the captive sailors, Kirby said that “only applies in times of war, and we are not at war with Iran.”

“It’s difficult to know exactly under what conditions he made that statement,” he said of the sailor who spoke on camera.

On the Iranian officials’ comments, Kirby replied, “I am not going to comment on every little — every voice coming out.”

“And he can speak for his own views. What I can do is to speak for the State Department, for Secretary Kerry, and if it wasn’t for the dialogue and the relationship that he has now with Foreign Minister Zarif, built up over many, many months. There’s no way that we would have gotten no sailors out — and I think that’s important to remember,” he added.