Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Iran Captures 2 US Naval Gunboats & 10 Sailors

US Gunboats similar to the captured.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Iran was holding 10 U.S. Navy sailors and their two small Navy boats after the boats had mechanical problems and drifted into Iranian waters, but American officials have received assurances from Tehran that they will be returned safely and promptly.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told The Associated Press that the riverine boats were moving between Kuwait and Bahrain when the U.S. lost contact with them. U.S. officials said that the incident happened near Farsi Island, situated in the Persian Gulf. They said that some type of mechanical trouble with one of the boats caused them to run aground and they were picked up by Iran. The sailors were in Iranian custody on Farsi Island at least for some time, but it's not certain where they are now.

The semi-official Iranian news agency, FARS, said the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's navy has detained 10 foreign forces, believed to be Americans, and said the sailors were trespassing in Iranian waters. "We have been in contact with Iran and have received assurances that the crew and the vessels will be returned promptly," Cook said.

The incident comes amid heightened tensions with Iran, and only hours before President Barack Obama is set to deliver his final State of the Union address to Congress and the public. It set off a dramatic series of calls and meetings as U.S. officials tried to determine the exact status of the crew and reach out to Iranian leaders.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who has forged a personal relationship with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif through three years of nuclear negotiations, called Zarif immediately on learning of the incident, according to a senior U.S. official. Kerry "personally engaged with Zarif on this issue to try to get to this outcome," the official said.

Kerry learned of the incident around 12:30 p.m. EST as he and Defense Secretary Ash Carter were meeting their Filipino counterparts at the State Department, the official said. This comes on the heels of an incident in late December when Iran launched a rocket test near U.S. warships and boats passing through the Strait of Hormuz. The officials were not authorized to discuss the sensitive incident publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

The incident also takes place just days before Iran is expected to satisfy the terms of last summer's nuclear deal. Once the U.N. nuclear agency confirms Iran's actions to roll back its program, the United States and other Western powers are obliged to suspend wide-ranging oil, trade and financial sanctions on Tehran. Kerry recently said the deal's implementation was "days away."

The Islamic Republic of Iran seized two U.S. Navy vessels while they were navigating the Persian Gulf on Tuesday, detaining the ships and ten American sailors near Iran’s Farsi Island, the Pentagon said. Farsi Island is home to an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) military base.

It has been confirmed that the boats were captured by the IRGC, whose leaders are aligned with the regime’s hardliners and have expressed staunch opposition to the now-historic nuclear deal.

Iran’s state-controlled Fars New Agency reported that one of the 10 sailors who have been detained is a woman. They also noted in their article that each of the boats is equipped with three 50 caliber machine guns. The IRGC has also confiscated GPS equipment from the vessels.

Captured US Marines on their knees.
Iran media says Revolutionary Guard navy confiscated GPS equipment belonging to 10 US sailors it has arrested, “our border was crossed.” Senior U.S. officials told news outlets it is unclear if the ships strayed into Iranian waters before Tehran’s navy captured the vessels. Iran claims the U.S. ships illegally entered Iranian territory. Secretary of State John Kerry has called Tehran hoping to secure the sailors’ immediate release, according to reports, which state Iran has agreed to let them go “within hours.”

At the same time Kerry was said to be on the phone with Iranian officials, his Twitter account posted. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told AP Tuesday that the U.S. Navy ships were in transit between Kuwait and Bahrain when they lost contact with their base of communications. “We have been in contact with Iran and have received assurances that the crew and vessels will be returned promptly,” Cook stated.

Iran has assured the U.S. of the sailors’ “safety and well-being” and “will promptly continue their journey,” a senior White House official told Fox News.

However, a report by the Tasnim News Agency only makes reference to release of the ships’ crew. In fact, the report twice makes a point to suggest that the boat’s occupants would be released, indicating a divergence from statements issued by the White House. Furthermore, the article in the Fars News Agency does not indicate the crew’s imminent release and even makes reference to repeated calls from U.S. officials for the release of prisoners that are currently being held in Iranian prisons.

Officials also indicated that, contrary to suggestions of an imminent release, the crew could be spending the night in captivity. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) appeared on MSNBC Tuesday afternoon, telling the far-left news network she hopes the issue will be resolved before the President’s State of the Union address. “Hopefully this will be resolved, and it won’t be an issue that we’re talking about in a couple of hours,” she said.

                       (Iran State TV shows the video footage of mighty US marines on their knees.)