10 US sailors held by Iran confirmed freed

Ten U.S. sailors who were taken prisoner by Iran when two small boats were patrolling near Iranian waters have been released along with their vessels, the Navy has confirmed.

The U.S. claims one of the small Riverine Command Boats experienced mechanical difficulties, strayed off course, and then disappeared from radar.  The Iranian Revolutionary Guards captured the boats and took the sailors prisoner, accusing them of "snooping" and demanding an apology from the U.S. government.

Initially, the Iranians said they would release the sailors and their boats at dawn Iran time.  But after an "investigation" that confirmed the navigational problems, the sailors were let go mid-afternoon Iran time.

Washington Post:

According to the Navy’s press release, the sailors departed Farsi Island, where they were held, at 8:43 GMT (3:43 a.m. Eastern Time). They were transferred ashore by U.S. Navy aircraft, while other sailors took charge of the vessels, called Riverine Command Boats, and continued on the way to Bahrain, the boats’ original destination.

According to the statement, the Navy will investigate “the circumstances that led to the Sailor’s presence in Iran.”

Iran’s Fars News Agency first reported the release. Fars quoted a statement by the “Islamic Revolution Guard Corps” saying Iran “has released the U.S. marines and their vessels in international waters after its investigations showed that they had gone astray during their voyage in the Persian Gulf. In its statement, the IRGC pointed out that its investigations show that the U.S. combat vessels illegal entry into Iranian water was not the result of a purposeful act,” Fars said.

There appeared to be a bit of equivocation from Iran earlier Wednesday, with Iranian officials saying talk of an imminent release was “speculation.” An Iranian Revolutionary Guard spokesman, General Ramezan Sharif, indicated that the Iran’s next move and its timing will be determined by an investigation.

Later, however, Iranian officials said they had determined that malfunctioning navigation devices were responsible for what they called the “intrusion.”

“Following technical and operational investigations and in interaction with relevant political and national security bodies of the country and after it became clear that the US combat vessels’ illegal entry into the Islamic Republic of Iran’s waters was the result of an unpurpuseful [sic] action and a mistake and after they extended an apology, the decision was made to release them,” the statement reported by Fars said.

“The Americans have undertaken not to repeat such mistakes,” it added, and continued, “The captured marines were released in international waters under the supervision of the IRGC Navy moments ago.”

For a while it appeared that the well-known factionalism in the Iranian government might lead to a prolonged crisis.  The prisoners could have become pawns in a power play among different elements in the government.  But with the Revolutionary Guards under the control of Supreme Leader Khamenei – and the lifting of sanctions just days away – it appears that cooler heads prevailed in Tehran, and the Americans were released more or less in a timely manner.

The Iranians made darn sure that they kept the sailors and the boats during the time that the president was giving his state of the union speech.  Obama never mentioned the incident and ended up congratulating himself for doing such a fine job negotiating the nuclear deal. 

It's not surprising that we "apologized" when Iran committed the provocative act of seizing our boats and our people.  The president and Secretary Kerry have become experts at groveling before the petty tyrants of the world and making it clear that just about everything is the fault of the U.S.  I question the apology only because if, indeed, the boats strayed into Iranian waters as a result of navigational problem, that wasn't the fault of the U.S. government, and no apology was needed.

But Iran needed to further humilate the U.S., and President Obama was glad to oblige. 

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