Gingrich: State Dept. defending 'Iranian abuse of our sailors'
© Greg Nash

Former Speaker Newt GingrichNewton (Newt) Leroy GingrichMORE (R-Ga.) is blasting the State Department's response to the detainment of 10 U.S. sailors by Iran.

Gingrich accused officials of defending Iran's behavior and suggested cutting funding for the department's spokesman in a series of tweets on Thursday.

“It is so disgusting to see the State Dept. spokesman defend the Iranian abuse of our sailors that it would legitimize defunding his office,” he tweeted, apparently referencing State spokesman John Kirby


“[Secretary of State John] Kerry and [President] Obama have [a] need to appease the Iranians no matter how offensive and outrageous they are,” Gingrich added. "No wonder the Saudis no longer trust them."

Ten American sailors were taken by Iran on Tuesday along with two U.S. Navy ships after they mistakenly entered Iranian waters.

They were released on Wednesday, but Iran’s leadership is using the incident for propaganda.

Iran released photos showing the Americans on their knees with guns trained on them, and a separate video of one sailor apologizing for violating Iranian territory.

Kirby said Thursday that the naval personnel were not protected by protocols of the Geneva Conventions during their detention.

“The Geneva Convention applies for a time of war between nations, and we’re not at war with Iran,” he told reporters during a press conference.

“If we were at war with Iran or another country, then yes, I think we could look at what happened as a breach of protocols in there,” Kirby added. "But they don’t apply.”

Kirby criticized Iran's release of those images Thursday.

“Its use for propaganda purposes is inappropriate,” he said of the video footage in particular. "I think we can safely say that. Nobody wants to see that.”

The Obama administration says last year's nuclear agreement with Iran paved the way to better diplomacy and a quick resolution of the standoff. But critics say the deal has only emboldened Iran.