On October 28, 2023, Iranian politician and former IRGC minister Brig.-Gen. Mohsen Rafighdoost told Iranian TV in an interview that Iran is holding Western hostages, and warned that Iran will kill them if it is attacked by Western countries.
Later, on November 9, Hossein Shariatmadari, longtime editor of the Iranian regime mouthpiece Kayhan who is a close associate of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, criticized Rafighdoost for his statements. He said that they could damage Iran's image and justify Western claims that Iran arrests Westerners so that they can be used to pressure their home countries.
That same day, November 9, Rafighdoost was again interviewed on Iranian TV, and clarified that the "hostages" to whom he was referring were actually Israel and the U.S. military bases in the region – not the Westerners imprisoned in Iran.
Below are translations of Rafighdoost's interviews and Shariatmadari's criticism.
Iranian Politician And Former IRGC Minister Mohsen Rafighdoost: We Have Hostages We Can Eliminate If Iran Is Attacked – And, Allah Willing, We Will Have The Opportunity To Do So
It is a known and oft-employed strategy and policy of the Iranian regime to arrest Westerners and use them as bargaining chips to obtain political achievements and money. However, the Iranian regime denies that this is why it imprisons Westerners, stating instead that they were arrested because they were spying for the West.
However, in an October 28, 2023 interview on Iran's Channel 3 TV, Iranian politician and former IRGC Minister Brig.-Gen. Mohsen Rafighdoost indicated that Iran does indeed take hostages as bargaining chips against the West.
To view this clip of Rafighdoost's statements on MEMRI TV, click here or below:
The following is a translation of Rafighdoost's statements in the interview:
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"[Use of] the military option against Iran by any of the world's superpowers will not work. Although this is due not just to our capabilities, it mostly is. Yes, we have weapons that even the U.S. does not have. No other countries have [weapons] as advanced as ours. We are holding hostages from the [Western] superpowers located in the region that might strike us – and we can eliminate them within 30 or 60 minutes. Inshallah, we will get an opportunity to do this."
Brig.-Gen. Rafidghoost on Channel 3.
Kayhan Editor Hossein Shariatmadari: Rafidghoost Was Actually Referring To Enemy Bases In The Region, Economic Arteries, And Strategic Targets – All Of Which Are Vulnerable And Can Be Destroyed By Iran
On November 9, 2023, Hossein Shariatmadari, a close associate of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and longtime editor of the conservative regime mouthpiece Kayhan, said that Rafighdoost's use of the term "hostages" and his mention of "eliminating them" was imprecise and that he was in fact talking about destroying enemy bases in the region. This clarification was later reiterated by Rafighdoost himself (see below).
Shariatmadari argued that Rafighdoost's statements might provide a basis for the West's claims that the Western prisoners held by Iran are innocent, rather than spies as the Iranian regime claims. He added that Rafighdoost's statements could tarnish Iran's image, as Iran is known for its "humane treatment of prisoners." The following is a translation of the main points of Shariatmadari's statements:
"Mr. Rafighdoost is a prominent IRGC member and served for several years as an IRGC minister, so he is unfamiliar with military issues and other related issues. In part of his interview with Channel 3, he said that Iran has hostages from global superpowers who would be eliminated within half an hour if Iran is attacked. It is not inconceivable that his statements were based on inaccuracies and inattention in his use of common military and political words and terminology.
"It can be assumed that when he spoke about hostages held by Iran, he was referring to the enemy military bases in the region, to economic arteries, and to the sensitive and strategic [enemy] centers, which are highly vulnerable and can be destroyed due to our military power and the popular influence of the Islamic Republic of Iran [in the countries of the region].
Kayhan editor Shariatmadari (Source: Fars (Iran), November 9, 2023)
"Mr. Rafighdoost knows that his statements can contradict what he originally meant and have a negative impact, such as if anyone thinks that he was referring to human hostages...
"Thanks to Islamic doctrine about treating prisoners with tolerance and humaneness, Iran is known all over the world. This was clearly made known by those who have been arrested or imprisoned in Iran for an extended period of time. So how can it be that Mr. Rafighdoost was referring to individual human hostages?! If only he would not behave so recklessly!
"If Mr. Rafighdoost was referring to individuals and human hostages, this would also be a show of weakness vis-à-vis the enemy, since killing hostages when attacked militarily is the behavior of those who cannot directly confront their enemy and must kill hostages [instead]! This is an unfair accusation against Iran... It would be expected that our dear brother Mr. Rafighdoost will take note of this fact and avoid saying things that the enemies might exploit!
"In short, Mr. Rafighdoost's inattention was and remains unreasonable on his part!"
Rafighdoost Follows Up: I Meant To Say That The "Hostages" That Iran Can Kill If Attacked Are Israel And The U.S. Bases In The Region
Shortly after Shariatmadari's criticism, Rafighdoost gave another interview on Iranian TV in which he reiterated Shariatmadari's words, saying that the "hostages" to whom he had referred are Israel and U.S. military bases in the Middle East.
To view Rafighdoost's statements on MEMRI TV, click here or below:
Rafighdoost said in the interview:
"The hostages that we are holding in the region [are], first and foremost, the Zionist regime itself, which will be destroyed if it really attacks our country. Then there are the American military bases in the region, which, in some places, are there with the consent of the governments, and in many other places, like Iraq and Syria, were installed by force. If, God forbid, any foolish act is taken against our country, and it comes under attack, these hostages will be destroyed."
Rafighdoost's second interview, aired the same day as Shariatmadari's criticism of his statements
 An example of this policy of using hostages as bargaining chips is the recent U.S.-Iran in which Iran released five American prisoners in exchange for 50 Iranians held in the U.S. and also released billions of dollars in oil revenues that had been frozen due to U.S. sanctions. See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1717, The Iranian Regime's Strategy Of Taking Western Hostages To Use As Bargaining Chips With The U.S. And Europe For Political And Financial Gain, September 6, 2023.
 Fars (Iran), November 9, 2023.