Iran Releases Sailors After U.S. Promises 'Not to Repeat Such Mistakes'
Iran released 10 U.S. sailors this morning, prompting Secretary of State to relate the hostage-taking to his own days at sea.
Iran's semi-official Fars news agency released photos of the crew sitting atop Persian rugs, looking bored. Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps also released video of what it said was the seizure of the crew, with the U.S. sailors kneeling with their hands behind their heads.
The IRGC said they determined that the pair of U.S. boats accidentally strayed into their waters.
"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 unintentional action and a mistake and after they extended an apology, the decision was made to release them," the statement from the IRGC said.
"The Americans have undertaken not to repeat such mistakes," it added. "The captured marines were released in international waters under the supervision of the IRGC Navy moments ago."
The nine men and one woman were being detained on Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf. They were captured before President Obama's State of the Union speech, in which he didn't mention any Americans held by Iran and only devoted two sentences to boasting about the Iran nuke deal.
The IRGC claimed the U.S. boats strayed three nautical miles into their waters bearing "semi-heavy weapons" through "excited and unprofessional moves."
Vice President Joe Biden told CBS after the State of the Union address that one of the U.S. boats "had engine failure and drifted into Iranian waters."
"The Iranians picked up both boats as we have picked up Iranian boats where -- that needed to be rescued and took them to -- I'm not sure exactly where. I don't want to misspeak here," Biden said.
"And realized they were there and distressed and said they were releasing and released them like ordinary nations would do. That is the way nations should do about it and that is why it's important to have channels open."
After Biden's description of the incident, Iran released video of the seizure of the boats and the kneeling U.S. sailors.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter credited Kerry "for his diplomatic engagement with Iran to secure our sailors' swift return."
"I'm very pleased that our sailors have been safely returned to U.S. hands," Kerry said in a statement this morning.
"As a former sailor myself, I know the importance of naval presence around the world and the critical work being done by our Navy in the Gulf region. I'm proud of our young men and women in uniform and know how seriously they take their responsibilities to one another and to other mariners in distress," he added.
Kerry expressed "gratitude to Iranian authorities for their cooperation in swiftly resolving this matter."
"That this issue was resolved peacefully and efficiently is a testament to the critical role diplomacy plays in keeping our country safe, secure, and strong," he added.
In contrast to "swiftly resolving" the matter of the sailors, the Obama administration barely mentions Americans held hostage for years by Iran.
Marine veteran Amir Hekmati, a Flagstaff, Ariz., native who was visiting extended family for the first time in August 2011, was seized and sentenced on trumped-up espionage charges.
Idaho pastor Saeed Abedini was convicted in January 2013 of establishing Christian house churches while in the country to set up a government-sanctioned orphanage.
Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian was seized on July 22, 2014, in a raid on his home and convicted of espionage in a closed-door trial last year. Jason, who was born in California to an Iranian father, reported from Tehran since 2008.
Former FBI agent Bob Levinson went missing off the coast of Iran in March 2007 while working as a private investigator. Levinson’s family later received images of him in captivity, though the Iranian government has maintained they don’t know who is holding him.
Since the Iran nuclear deal was inked last year, two more Americans have been arrested by Iran: IT expert Nizar Zakka and businessman Siamak Namazi.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a Marine veteran who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, noted on Fox that "this part of the world works on power."
"If you have power, then people will respect you and they will listen to you. And right now, the U.S. does not hold sway in that part of the world because they know that President Obama backs off of his red lines. There are no red lines. The red line keeps going backwards and backwards and he will not confront them," Hunter said.
"You have to confront people like this. You've got to punch them in the face and say we are the United States. You're not going to take our American journalist prisoner. You are not going to arrest sailors in the Persian Gulf. We're going to smack you in the face."
— Abas Aslani (@abasinfo) January 13, 2016
#BREAKING: Iran publishes new & humiliating pics of the moment #IRGC boarded 2 US navy boats & captured 10 soldiers pic.twitter.com/almm2HbuNi — Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) January 13, 2016
Most Americans I know would go crazy with anger looking at this photo. pic.twitter.com/uuFW8iKvsf — Anders Östlund (@andersostlund) January 13, 2016
"We do not see this as hostile intent. They've been well treated." - WH senior official last night. pic.twitter.com/UYUA9PdYRL — Jimmy (@JimmyPrinceton) January 13, 2016