US Navy Riverine Command Boat 802
Source: US Navy
Two US Navy riverine torpedo boats were on a training mission between Kuwait and Bahrain when one of the vessels became disabled 'drifting' into Iranian waters. The boats were promptly detained by Iranian Revolutionary Guard naval units on Farsi Island in Persian Gulf. 10 US sailors (9 men and 1 woman) aboard the two boats were arrested Secretary Kerry called his opposite number in Tehran, Foreign Minister Zarif seeking the release of both the boats and crew. The response was that their release "might come with hours". Don't count on it.
Note the comments in this NBC news report from retired Army Gen . Barry McCaffrey, GOP Presidential hopefuls Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio:
Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, an NBC News military analyst, said the seizure of American boats is "very bad news" and highlights how the Navy may have failed to have surveillance on its vessels.
"We simply can't allow ground, air or naval units to be seized by a foreign hostile power," McCaffrey said on MSNBC. "I hope they're back real quickly. This is an affront to our military presence in the Gulf and will unsettle our allies in the region."
GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush was among the first to attack Obama for appearing weak in front of Iran, which has been at odds with the U.S. over a nuclear deal that was finally reached last year.
"No more bargaining. Obama's humiliatingly weak Iran policy is exposed again," Bush tweeted.
GOP rival Marco Rubio during an interview on Fox News called for Iran to release the sailors immediately, saying the nation is "testing the boundaries of our resolve."
With less than 270 vessels in our Navy, we cannot project power in any of the world trouble spots, be it the volatile Persian Gulf with much of the world oil trade traffic flows or the South China Sea.
Last April 2015, the Iranian fired warning shot across a Marshall Islands flagged vessel, the Maersk Tigris forcing the container ship with 34 Eastern European and South Asian sailors aboard to anchor off the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. See our NER/Iconoclast Post, “What’s Behind Iran’s Piracy in the Persian Gulf over an Unresolved Cargo Claim?” Allegedly the seizure of the container ship was for alleged unpaid claims. The US did not provide naval intervention as required under a treaty with the Marshall Islands. When the alleged unpaid claims were paid, the vessel returned to its original voyage dropping off cargo in the UAE. Obviously the Administration didn't want to ruffle the feathers of their Iranian nuclear deal interlocutors.
In discussions this afternoon with Shoshana Bryen of the Jewish Policy Center we commiserated about the seizure of six British Royal Marines in June 2004 by the IRGC naval contingent. The Royal Marines were taken to land, blinded and demanded to apologize for entering Iranian waters. They were then taken out onto the desert and blindfolded while weapons were chambered in a mock execution. They were released three days later in what was billed as a "misunderstanding." The Royal Marines were operating in Iraqi waters when seized by Iran.
As noted in a Reuters report on today’s seizure of US patrol boats and arrest of US Navy personnel, , there was another seizure of British naval and marine personnel by Iranian Revolutionary guards that created a diplomatic crisis in 2007:
In March 2007, Iranian forces seized 15 British servicemen - eight Royal Navy sailors and seven marines - in the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab waterway that separates Iran and Iraq, triggering a diplomatic crisis at a time of heightened tensions over Tehran's nuclear ambitions. They were held for 13 days.
Look at Iran's track record over the last several months since the JCOPA was endorsed by the UN Security Council. Iran fired off two ballistic missile tests in October and November 2015 in violation of UN Res. 1929. Last week. the IRGC missile boats hailed the USS Harry Truman giving it and an accompanying destroyer, the USS Bulkley and a nearby French frigate a 23 minute warning before firing rockets in a live fire exercise 1,500 yards away. The Administration has been humiliated time and again by the Ayatollah and will continue to be held in contempt for being weak, even after the, Administration releases $100 billion in sequestered funds in foreign banks , perhaps as early as this week.
The President is giving his last SOTUS tonight. Perhaps members of Congress might show their contempt for this latest action of Iran seizing our vessels arresting 10 sailors by not applauding him, or better yet, not showing up. Meanwhile the spin at the White House is that the crews of the two patrol boats may be released by daylight to return to their base in Bahrain. Think, also, of those other American hostages held by the Islamic Regime in Tehran, an ex-FBI agent, a former Marine, a Christian Pastor, two American Iranian Businessmen and a convicted Washington Post reporter. We’ll believe the release of our sailors when that occurs and the patrol boats are also returned. The patrol boats are used to monitor freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf. The fate of the American civilian prisoners held by the Ayatollah and his IRGC henchman are uncertain at best.
This is piracy and an act of war against the United States, and should be treated as a declaration of war on the United States.