Defense Secretary Ash Carter lashed out at the Iranian government on Thursday for the way it treated 10 U.S. sailors who were recently captured in the Islamic Republic’s waters.
Carter’s comments are significantly different from those offered by Secretary of State John Kerry, who claimed earlier this month that the U.S. sailors were "well taken care of."
Asked how he felt upon viewing video footage of the U.S. sailors being abducted at gunpoint, Carter responded, that he "was very, very angry at it."
"I'll tell you what. Americans wouldn't have done that," he said. "I said that before, that for me, as Secretary of Defense, I think it's probably true of everybody in the Department, to see our guys in that situation on Iranian TV, that's really not OK."
U.S. forces would never treat another country’s personnel in this manner, Carter said.
"We would not have done that, and I asked everybody at the time, and I hope everybody's keeping that [in] mind as you think about that," he said. "Remember as you're thinking about our guys, that you're looking through the lens of the Iranians, so they are being debriefed and explaining what the circumstances and so forth–our first interest for those guys was their own health and welfare, and the Navy has been attending to that, and that's important."
"But this is not the way they should have been treated, and it's very, for certain, not the way that Americans would have treated foreign sailors in a comparable circumstance," Carter said.
Referring to video published by Iran showing the U.S. sailors apologizing for their actions, Carter described the footage as inappropriate and coerced.
"I have no reason to believe anything else, and this was a situation that they were put into coercively and then filmed. Again, not something we would ever do," he said.
Carter’s comments stand in sharp contrast to those offered by Kerry in the days after the sailors were captured and subsequently released.
Kerry praised Iran and thanked "the Iranian authorities for their cooperation and quick response."
"These are always situations which, as everybody here knows, have an ability, if not properly guided, to get out of control, and I’m appreciative for the quick and appropriate response of the Iranian authorities," Kerry said earlier this month.
"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," according to Kerry.