December 15, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 11022

Iranian Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Ashtiani Responds To Proposed U.S.-Backed Red Sea Force: 'If Americans Make Such A Foolish Move, They Will Be Faced With Extraordinary Problems'; 'This Region Is Ours'

December 15, 2023
Iran | Special Dispatch No. 11022

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In an interview with Iran's ISNA news agency, Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Ashtiani responded to statements by a Pentagon official regarding U.S. efforts to set up a multinational maritime task force comprising some 40 countries to protect shipping in the Red Sea. Ashtiani said that "America's presence in the Red Sea complicates their problems, and they are certainly not acting [in the right way] to cope with extraordinary problems." He added: "In this region nobody has room to move anymore and to engage in confrontation between forces. They [the U.S.] will certainly not  do such a thing, and if they wish to make such a foolish move, they will be faced with extraordinary problems. All the countries have a presence in this region, but this region is ours. Nobody can maneuver in a region we control."[1]

Iranian Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Ashtiani (Image: ISNA, December 14, 2023)

Several hours after the interview was published, ISNA altered the text and added a line (highlighted below in bold text) to Ashtiani's brief remarks, all of which dealt with Iran's response to the U.S. intention to dispatch a multinational force to secure the Red Sea shipping lanes: "…All the countries have a presence in this region, and [shipping] should be secured by the countries of the region [not by a multinational force]. Regarding the Persian Gulf region, [Ashtiani] said: This region is ours. Nobody can maneuver in a region we control."[2]

It seems that the addition, which is out of context and makes a sudden shift to the topic of Iran's position on the Persian Gulf, is meant to save Iran from a controversial statement in which its defense minister declares the Red Sea to be part of Iran's territory. It should be noted that Iran's claim to sovereignty over the entire Persian Gulf is likewise baseless.

In this context it is pertinent to recall a statement made by top Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) official Gen. Naser Sah'bani in August 2018, in which he admitted that Tehran had instructed the Houthis, its proxies in Yemen, to attack Saudi oil tankers. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7612, Statements By Top IRGC Official Gen. Sha'bani Published By Fars News Agency: 'We Told The Yemenis To Attack The Two Saudi Tankers, And They Attacked', August 7, 2018). In this case, too, the report was changed after its publication and the incriminating statements omitted.

The following is the original version of ISNA's report on Ashtiani's interview. The sentence that was later altered ("All the countries have a presence in this region, but this region is ours. Nobody can maneuver in a region we control") is highlighted in yellow.


[1]  ISNA (Iran), December 14, 2023.

[2] ISNA (Iran), December 14, 2023.

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