1 July 2016
In a new report, the U.S. Navy has responded to the capture of ten U.S. sailors by Iran in the Gulf in January, saying weak leadership, poor judgment and a lack of “warfighting toughness” were responsible for their capture.
The U.S. navy also said that with the capture Iran “violated international law as well as U.S. sovereign immunity” by boarding the boats and impeding the vessels’ innocent passage.
The sailors were detained after their boats entered Iranian territorial waters, but were quickly released. At the time of capture, the two boats were traveling from Kuwait to Bahrain, home of the U.S. Fifth Fleet.
“Crewmembers lacked navigational awareness, proper communication with higher authority, and appreciation of the threat environment throughout the transit,” the report from the U.S. Navy said.
According to BBC, for each boat, two of the five on-board weapons were mounted but not manned.
The arrested crew also failed to get approval before deviating from their route and failed to report the engine failure that led to their capture.
The crew’s mistake also included ignorance. They were within sight of Iran’s Farsi Island, which also serves as an Iranian speedboat base, but believed it to be Saudi territory.
The sailors, who were held for 15 hours on Farsi Island, were also criticised for their behaviour within the 15 hours they were in Iranian captivity.
One sailor made “statements adverse to U.S. interests” and another encouraged fellow crewmembers to eat food offered to them while being recorded on video, which could be used for propaganda purposes.
According to the report, seven were interrogated – “some were honest, while others lied or played dumb.”
None were harmed, but Iranian interrogators “employed intimidation tactics such as slapping the table, spinning the captive’s chair, or threatening to move them to the Iranian mainland”.
Despite the errors, the U.S. Navy insisted its boats “had every right” to be where they were.