Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Iran releases US sailors who were detained after their boats entered Iranian waters. Reuters.

American sailors detained by Iran. Reuters/Iranian military photo.

Iran has released 10 United States sailors after briefly capturing them as their boats entered Iranian waters. Reuters. Iran released the sailors after they determined that the Navy patrol boats had violated Iranian territorial waters by accident. The sailors were released after they apologized for the error. It is unclear how Iran was able to capture the men and their Riverine Command Boats. Iran claims that the boats entered Iranian waters due to a broken navigation system. Politicians in both Iran and the United States criticized the incident, but most tension was resolved when the Iranians made the claim that the incident was an accident. 

My Comment:
What a strange story. To be clear, these Riverine Command Boats are really tiny boats. They are landing craft designed for deploying about a 18 soldiers. They are originally from Sweden and the United States Navy has half a dozen of them for some reason. My guess is that they are probably used in a special forces capability. I don't see them being used in a recon role so I am guessing that these boats were not spying on the Iranians. My guess is that they were either training or were on their way to do something else. It does seem odd to me that such small boats would be operating anywhere near Iranian waters, so they were up to something. We probably won't ever know, because I am guessing it will be classified... 

My question is why they gave up without a fight. These boat have some weapons normally and I can't imagine that they weren't armed. They are supposed to be equipped with three machine guns and a grenade launcher, along with any rifles they brought with them. If they wanted to they could have at least made it painful for the Iranians to capture them and given the high speed of the Riverine Command Boats (40 knots) they should have been able to escape. A quick check on the capabilities of the Iranian Navy makes it seem like only their smallest patrol boats could have caught up with these boats, and that would be a somewhat fair fight if it came to that.

So why didn't they? It seems like they were operating on their own. Most US Navy ships are more then a match for Iran's Navy. Their best ships are frigates and corvettes, no match for most of our ships. But they could be match for a small boat with just a few machine guns. A small landing craft is going to lose against a frigate. For once the US Navy was outgunned, and I am guessing that these sailors could have thought that discretion was the better idea. The problem is that they should have still been able to outrun any of the Iranian ships except the coastal patrol ships. 

The other option, and the one I think is more likely, is that they were ordered to stand down. Barack Obama is desperate to salvage something from his presidency and the nuclear deal with Iran seems like his best chance. The deal is set to go into effect in the next couple of days. An incident involving a shoot out between the US Navy and the Iranian Navy could derail that. My guess is that our Navy has standing orders to give the Iranians more chances then they honestly deserve. Why else would we allow them to fire a bunch of rockets right next to one of our aircraft carriers? That was a highly aggressive act that really should have resulted in some violence directed at Iranian forces, but we let them off the hook. 

My guess is that these boats got into trouble with the Iranians. I have no clue if they actually entered Iranian waters. It could be true that they had a navigation error, but I think it is just as likely that they didn't and the government is saying that they did to diffuse tensions. Iran would have likely confronted these boats no matter what, given how aggressive their Navy has been lately. Instead of fleeing or fighting back our sailors surrendered, probably under direct orders. And all because our President wants to secure his legacy...

If you can't tell, I am not happy about the outcome of this incident. I am glad that nobody was hurt, but I am not happy that the Iranians were able to push us around so easily. Though we may have been in the wrong by violating their waters, if that is indeed what happened, I still think the idea that a group of our sailors could be captured without even putting up a fight is rather embarrassing. The response to someone trying to capture one of our boats should be overwhelming firepower and the destruction of any ships trying to do so. That may not have been possible or maybe not even wise in this case, but I just don't like the precedent this sets. America looks weak right now and other countries could use this incident as justification to pull their own stunts. 

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