A little “Peace In Our Time” and “No Existential Threats” action for the State of the Union Address evening.
“We have been in contact with Iran and have received assurances that the crew and the vessels will be returned promptly.” In other words, “We have telegraphed our weakness to the world, but the Iranians are inclined to be magnanimous.”
“Pentagon: 2 U.S. Navy Boats With 10 American Sailors Held by Iran Military,” by Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube, NBC News, January 12, 2016:
Iranian military forces seized two U.S. Navy boats Tuesday and are detaining them on Iran’s Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf, senior U.S. officials told NBC News.
The officials said it’s unclear whether the 10 American sailors aboard two small riverine vessels had strayed into Iranian territorial waters before they were captured.
The sailors were on a training mission around noon ET when one of the boats may have experienced mechanical failure and drifted into Iranian-claimed waters, officials added. Iran’s coast guard took them into custody, although the crew has been described as being safe.
Following reports of the incident, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Iranian officials in Tehran by phone, attempting to secure the sailors’ release.
One senior official told NBC News the Iranians understand it was a mistake and have agreed to release the Americans in international waters within hours.
The Persian Gulf has been a flash point in the Middle East, and the incident comes on the same day President Barack Obama is set to give his annual State of the Union address.
Senior U.S. military commanders also criticized Iran last month for its “highly provocative” actions when it fired unguided rockets near U.S. ships, including the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told The Associated Press that the boats were moving between Kuwait and Bahrain when U.S. officials lost contact with them. Farsi Island sits in the Persian Gulf in between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and is fortified by Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
“We have been in contact with Iran and have received assurances that the crew and the vessels will be returned promptly,” Cook said.
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.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said on MSNBC that the pending release of the sailors shows how diplomacy between U.S. and Iranian officials “is working.”
“Hopefully this will be resolved, and it won’t be an issue that we’re talking about in a couple of hours,” she said.
She can hope.