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Iran Releases U.S. Sailors After Brief Detention

Reuters Top News World

Iran Releases U.S. Sailors After Brief Detention


By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin and Sam Wilkin

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran released ten U.S. sailors on Wednesday after holding them overnight, bringing a swift end to an incident that had rattled nerves days ahead of the expected implementation of a landmark nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said it had freed the sailors after determining they had entered Iranian territorial waters by mistake. The sailors had been detained aboard two U.S. Navy patrol boats in the Gulf on Tuesday.

“Our technical investigations showed the two U.S. Navy boats entered Iranian territorial waters inadvertently,” the IRGC said in a statement carried by state television. “They were released in international waters after they apologized,” it added.

Confirming the sailors’ safe release, the Pentagon said there were no indications they were harmed while in Iranian custody.

A carefully worded statement did not explain how the sailors and their two riverine command boats ended up being detained by Iran, saying only that “the Navy will investigate the circumstances that led to the sailors’ presence in Iran”.

The sailors were later taken ashore by U.S. Navy aircraft, while other sailors took charge of the boats and headed towards Bahrain, their original destination.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he was pleased the sailors had been freed and appreciated “the timely way in which this situation was resolved”.

He added: “I want to personally thank Secretary of State John Kerry for his diplomatic engagement with Iran to secure our sailors’ swift return.”

IRGC Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi had earlier said that the two U.S. Navy boats entered Iranian territorial waters due to a broken navigation system.

The incident raised tensions between Iran and the United States, which, along with other world powers, reached a deal last year under which Iran will curb its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

Some conservatives in both countries, enemies since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, have criticized the deal that is due to be implemented in the coming days.


Iran’s armed forces chief, Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, said the incident should demonstrate Iranian strength to “troublemakers” in the U.S. Congress, which has sought to put pressure on Iran after the nuclear deal.

And at a presidential campaign rally in the United States, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, who accuses President Barack Obama of being weak on foreign policy, described the incident as “an indication of where the hell we’re going”.

Attributing the boats’ incursion into Iranian waters to a navigation error marked a de-escalation in rhetoric. Earlier, the Guards had said the boats were “snooping” in Iranian territory and said Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had demanded an apology from Washington.

The IRGC, the Islamic Republic’s praetorian guard, is highly suspicious of U.S. military activity near Iran’s borders and many senior officers suspect Washington of pursuing regime change in Tehran.

The Guards operate land and naval units separate to the regular armed forces and stage frequent wargames in the Gulf, which separates Iran from its regional rival Saudi Arabia and a U.S. naval base in Bahrain.

Last month, the U.S. Navy said an IRGC vessel fired unguided rockets near the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman in the Strait of Hormuz, a critical shipping route for crude oil that connects the Gulf to the Indian Ocean. Iran denied the vessel had done so.

In April 2015, the Guards seized a container ship belonging to Maersk, one of the world’s major shipping lines, in the Gulf because of a legal dispute between the company and Iran. The ship and its 24 crew members were released after 10 days.

The Guards have also seized British servicemen on two occasions, in 2004 and 2007, and a civilian British yacht crew in 2009. On each occasion the sailors were released unharmed after several days.

(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin and Phil Stewart; Writing by Sam Wilkin; Editing by Sami Aboudi, Peter Graff and Giles Elgood)

Photo: An undated picture released by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards website shows American sailors sitting in a unknown place in Iran. REUTERS/sepahnews.ir/TIMA/Handout via Reuters



  1. The lucky one January 13, 2016

    Can you imagine the result if Trump was president. He would have started blathering and threatening before he really knew anything about what was happening since shooting from the hip is his style. He would have escalated a non-incident into a catastrophe.

    1. Insinnergy January 13, 2016

      He needs scapegoats.
      A catastrophe like you are describing would just “prove” that he was right, and “Muslims are Bad”(tm).

      His rhetoric so far insists that he is awesome, and can do nothing wrong. Indeed: Facts are irrelevant, truth is irrelevant, logic is irrelevant… even substance is indefinitely on backorder…. and sanity is fleeting.

      Just wait until he commands the US military with that attitude.
      It’ll be like Bush on PCP and without Cheney’s hand up his a**.

  2. @HawaiianTater January 13, 2016

    This is what happens when adults handle a situation instead of temper tantrum throwing children. Some of these RWNJs would have started WWIII over what basically amounted to nothing. What’s so sad about all of this is that most likely none of the fear mongers will even get called out on it. They started spewing their diarrhea of the mouth before even knowing the whole situation. Now that it has been peacefully and calmly settled, they’ll probably just act like it never happened. The lack of accountability these people have for the things they say is sad.

    1. Insinnergy January 13, 2016

      Unfortunately the fear mongering Republican hype machine is now running at full steam crying about the “insult to America” and wringing their hands over the “fate” of these sailors.

      The “fate” being brief detention, food, shelter, and a rather quick return to their command unharmed.

      No-one got waterboarded to death or indefinitely detained in a dubious legal limbo even once!

      Haven’t the Iranians learned anything from America?

      1. @HawaiianTater January 13, 2016

        It really is insane watching them go after Obama. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to criticize him but they quite literally attack him everything, whether or not it is something or nothing. He can’t even go on a Christmas vacation with his family without being accused of not doing his job. Nevermind the fact that the Republicans in Congress take off about as many days in a year as Obama has in his entire presidency. Obama could turn into Superman and avert an asteroid from destroying Earth and they would accuse him of looking out too much for global interests instead of taking care of the USA. They really are that insane.


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