The former commander of Iran’s navy has claimed it was his forces, not the US Navy, that inspired a Hollywood docudrama about the 2009 US Navy rescue of a cargo ship captain who was held at gunpoint by Somali pirates.
“The film ‘Captain Phillips,’ produced by the Americans, was inspired by our operation,” former Iranian Navy commander general Habibollah Sayyari said in an interview aired on Iranian television February 5, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute.
Sayyari cited the 2012 Iran navy rescue of a Chinese ship that had been hijacked and taken to the shore of Somalia. Two Filipino sailors were killed when the pirates allegedly used crewmen as human shields during the Iranian navy rescue operation, the ABS-CBN news site reported at the time.
It is doubtful that the American screenwriter Billy Ray got his inspiration for the movie from Tehran, as the script was based on the book by Captain Mark Phillips, an American whose ship was hijacked by Somali pirates.
The 2009 hijacking and rescue of the container ship MV Maersk Alabama was extensively covered in the media.
Following the rescue, US president Barack Obama said he was “very proud of the efforts of the US military and many other departments and agencies who worked tirelessly” to pull off the mission.
The 2013 Hollywood flick, which was named by many critics as one of the year’s best, featured actor Tom Hanks portraying Phillips, the captain of the ship.
In the film Phillips leads his crew to fight off the pirates until the Alabama is intercepted by the US Navy destroyer USS Bainbridge. US Navy Seals eventually kill three of the four hijackers and rescue the captain, who had been taken hostage and held for three days in a lifeboat.
In the Iranian TV interview, Sayyari said Iran responded to international calls in 2008 following acts of piracy in the Gulf of Aden for “any capable country to be present there and to provide security for the international trade. We were present there. We were among the first nations to be present there.”
Sayyari also said that Iranian warships were being deployed as far away as the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in an apparent effort to project Iranian military might.