Navy report: Crews detained by Iran were ‘derelict’ in their duties – USA TODAY
The crews of two U.S. Navy boats detained brieflyÂ by Iran inÂ January were “derelict” in their duties during a mistake-prone mission in the Persian Gulf, a Navy investigation released Thursday concluded.
The investigation found that the crews of the riverine boatsÂ tookÂ an unauthorized shortcut through Iranian territorial waters because they were in a hurry, and were not prepared to resist or evade the Iranian naval ships that surrounded themÂ off the coast of Iran’s Farsi Island on Jan. 12.
The mission to move the boats from Kuwait to BahrainÂ was plagued by poor decisions, bad training and little oversight, the report concluded.
“The RCB boat captains and crews were derelict in performing their duties to expected norms and standards,” the report said, referring to riverine command boats.
The boats and 10 crew membersÂ were captured without any shots fired, creating an embarrassing international incident for the Obama administration as it was defending a controversial nuclear agreementÂ with Iran.
Iran used the incident for propaganda purposes, releasing a video of the Americans, including one in which the skipper of the ships seemed to apologize for straying into IranianÂ waters.
“Our actions on that day in January did not live up to our expectations of our Navy,” Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said at a Pentagon briefing that announcedÂ the results of the investigation.
Three officers have already been fired from their jobs in connection with the incident and another six servicemembers will likely face disciplinary action, the Navy said.
The crews had onlyÂ 24 hours notice that they were going to make the journey and had to stay up all night to ready the boats for the 250-nautical mile journey, according to the report which provided a detailed account of the incident. They got off late and decided to save time by taking a more direct route, which would take them through both Saudi and Iranian waters.
One of the boats broke down inÂ the worst possible place, stranding the crew in waters only 1.5 nautical miles from Farsi Island, home to an Iranian Revolutionary Guard naval base, the investigation said.Â The crew members did not know they were in Iranian territorial waters, however, when they were approached by IranianÂ ships with sailors bearing their weapons.
The Iranians boarded the U.S. boat, forced the U.S. sailorsÂ to kneel with their hands behind their heads and replaced the U.S. flag on the vessel with an Iranian flag, the report said.
The crew was interrogated by the Iranians, who attempted to intimidate them by slapping the tableÂ and threatening to take them to the mainland, but did not physically harm them, according to the investigation.Â The Iranians also collected passwords to the U.S. sailors’Â personal phones and laptops.
The Iranians videotaped a crewmemberÂ making an apologyÂ scripted by the Iranians, who said the crew would not be released unless he read the script.Â The report, which does not name the officer, said his actions violated the code of conduct for servicemen who are held captive.
They were held by the Iranians forÂ 16 hours before being released. The Navy report said the Iranians violated basic maritime law and practiceÂ despite the U.S. mistakes. Ships often enter territorial waters and are generally allowed to transit through as long as they do not stop.
The report said the Iranians were justified in coming out to investigate the American ships, but not in holding them or preventing them from continuing their journey.
Two higher ranking officers have already been fired from their positionsÂ as a result of the investigation.Â Capt. Kyle Moses, who headedÂ a task force that included riverine operations, was relieved of his command, the Navy said in a statement last week.
In May, the Navy relieved the commander of the riverine squadron, Cmdr. Eric Rasch.