U.S. Navy fires commander of sailors who were held by Iran

U.S. Navy fires commander of sailors who were held by Iran...
reuters.com 13/05/2016 Military

Keywords:#2016_U.S.–Iran_naval_incident, #American, #Bahrain, #Congress, #Donald_Trump, #Fars, #Fars_News_Agency, #Farsi, #Farsi_Island, #Foreign_Minister, #GMT, #GPS, #Gendarme_of_the_Persian_Gulf, #Geneva, #Government, #IRGC, #Iran, #Iranian, #Islamic, #Islamic_Revolution, #Islamic_Revolutionary_Guard_Corps, #January, #Javad_Zarif, #John_Kerry, #John_Kirby, #Kuwait, #Middle_East, #Mohammad_Javad_Zarif, #National_Persian_Gulf_Day, #News, #Obama, #Obama_administration, #Persian, #Persian_Gulf, #Persian_Gulf_Complex, #Persian_Gulf_Day, #Persian_Gulf_Forever, #Persian_Gulf_states, #Phil_Stewart, #Reuters, #Reuters.com, #Revolution, #Revolutionary_Guards, #State_Department, #Task_Force, #Tasnim, #Tasnim_News_Agency, #Ted_Cruz, #Tehran, #US, #United_States

WASHINGTON | By Phil Stewart
2016 U.S.–Iran naval incident
Simulation of the arrest of American sailors involved in the 2016 U.S.–Iran naval incident, on the 38th anniversary of the Iranian Islamic Revolution.

* * * The U.S. Navy said on Thursday that it had fired the commander of the 10 American sailors who wandered into Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf in January and were briefly held by Iran in an incident that risked becoming an international crisis.
The Navy said in a statement that it had lost confidence in Commander Eric Rasch, who was the executive officer of the coastal riverine squadron that included the 10 sailors.
Rasch became the first person to be publicly singled out after a preliminary investigation into the incident that occurred near Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the commander of Navy forces in the Middle East had also taken non-judicial action against other sailors involved in the incident but declined to provide details.
Such administrative forms of punishment can include things like letters of reprimand and verbal counseling.
The Navy has not yet released the results of its investigation, but in February the military said the Americans had been intercepted on January 12 after the diesel engine in one of their boats developed a mechanical problem.
Two SIM cards were also pulled from the sailors' satellite phones.
Iran's supreme leader awarded medals to navy commanders for capturing U.S. sailors. Iranian media broadcast videos of the detainees, including scenes in which Revolutionary Guards personnel trained weapons on the sailors as they knelt.
Some 15 hours later the Americans were freed after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry intervened with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, averting a diplomatic crisis days before implementation of the Iran nuclear deal and the lifting of international sanctions on Tehran.
Explaining Rasch's dismissal, the U.S. official said he had demonstrated a failure to provide effective leadership, which led to a lack of oversight, complacency, and failure to maintain standards in the unit.
The Obama administration has said the sailors' speedy release showed the power of diplomacy and the promise of its new engagement with Iran.
Republicans in Congress have been critical of the deal with Iran, and some have said the detainment of the sailors showed how little regard Iran had for the United States.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Writing by Eric Beech and Phil Stewart; Editing by Chris Reese, Toni Reinhold)
On January 12, 2016 two United States Navy riverine command boats were seized by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy after they entered Iranian territorial waters near Iran's Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf. According to the U.S. military the sailors were aboard their patrol craft when they developed mechanical failure and inadvertently entered Iranian waters. The U.S Secretary of State John Kerry called the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif within five minutes. His call was followed by multiple other phone calls between the two ministers.
Some US Republican presidential hopefuls such as Ted Cruz and Donald Trump have criticised the US response to the detention, which they deemed too weak.
On January 12, 2016 two United States Navy riverine command boats cruising from Kuwait to Bahrain with a combined crew of nine men and one women on board strayed into Iranian territorial waters which extend three nautical miles around Farsi Island in Persian Gulf. Patrol craft of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy seized the craft and detained the crew at a military base on Farsi Island.
According to military sources the two RCBs were on a routine transit from Kuwait to Bahrain, which serves as the home port for Task Force 56 under the Fifth Fleet. They left Kuwait at 12:23 p.m local time and were scheduled to refuel with the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Monomoy at 5 p.m. During the transit one RCB developed an engine problem and both boats stopped to solve the mechanical issue. During this time they drifted into Iranian waters. At 5:10 p.m the boats were approached by the two small Iranian center-console craft followed by two more boats. There was a verbal exchange between the Iranian and U.S personnel and the officer commanding the RCBs allowed the Iranian sailors to come aboard and take control. The Iranian forces made the sailors kneel with their hands behind their heads. The RCBs reported their engine failure to Task Force 56 and all communications were terminated after the report. A U.S. search-and-rescue effort was launched leading to "robust bridge-to-bridge communications" with Iranian military vessels, wherein the Iranians informed U.S. Navy cruiser USS Anzio at 5:15 p.m that “the RCBs and their crew were in Iranian custody at Farsi Island and were safe and healthy.” By that time the search and rescue effort which included sending a U.S. Navy vessel inside Iranian territorial waters over concern sailors could have been lost overboard, U.S. sailors were already ashore.
John Kerry spoke with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at least five times by telephone. He called Zarif within five minutes. He states he "gave him a very direct statement about what would happen if we didn’t have their release very quickly”. Zarif called back within 20 minutes with assurances that the sailors would be released soon and that they were being “well taken care of”. John Kerry has stated that in his other phone calls about the situation he "made it crystal clear" how serious it was and that "It was imperative to get it resolved." The sailors had a brief verbal exchange with the Iranian military and were released unharmed along with all their equipment the next day on January 13 after 15 hours and they departed the island at 08:43 GMT on their boats.
The IRGC stated that they released them after their investigation concluded the "illegal entry into Iranian water was not the result of a purposeful act."
At first, it was suggested that a mechanical failure in at least one of the boats led them to the Iranian waters, then it was verified that both boats returned to base under their own power. However, American military officials could not explain how they had lost contact with both of the boats.
The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards naval forces claimed that the US apologized to Iran for incident. However, the US Government has stated that no apology was made.
According to the Fars News Agency on January 26, "the American ships were 'snooping' around in Iranian waters", based on the sailors' GPS data collected by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Navy. On January 29 Fars News Agency stated "it was proved that the US marines had strayed into Iranian waters only due to the failure of their navigation devices and equipment."
U.S. Central Command stated "A post-recovery inventory of the boats found that all weapons, ammunition and communication gear are accounted for minus two SIM cards that appear to have been removed from two handheld satellite phones." The statement did not account for navigation equipment. A Navy command investigation continues and more details will be provided when it is completed.
Tasnim News Agency reported Islamic Revolutionary Guards Navy Commander Admiral Ali Fadavi said in a February 1 parliamentary session "We have extracted extensive information from their laptops and cell phones", and that the information can be made public if a decision is made to that effect.
Treatment of American military personnel
On the same day the American crewmembers were released with their vessels, Iran released a series of images and videos which, among other things, showed the U.S. navy sailors on their knees with their hands clasped behind their heads as they were being apprehended on their vessels. Two of the videos featured one of the Americans, apparently the lieutenant commanding the boats, apologizing and praising Iran's treatment: "It was a mistake that was our fault, and we apologize for our mistake... The Iranian behavior was fantastic while we were here and we thank you very much for your hospitality and your assistance." According to Politico, these pictures and footage further "inflam the American debate over capture, including the question of whether the U.S. had formally apologized for entering Iranian territory." Michael Pregent, an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute and a retired U.S. military officer, said the photos and video, which were used for propaganda purposes and made the sailors readily identifiable, violated articles 13 and 17 of the Geneva Convention. US State Department Spokesman John Kirby addressed the issue, explaining "the Geneva Convention applies for wartime. We’re not at war with Iran". A Defense Department official said that the Navy lieutenant’s filmed apology was probably intended to defuse a potentially volatile situation.

--- Persian Gulf Forever , Persian Gulf Complex , National Persian Gulf Day , Gendarme of the Persian Gulf , Persian Gulf states , Persian Gulf Day ---...

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