President Obama has “no plans” to address the ongoing hostage situation with Iran in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, White House Communications Director Jen Psaki told CNN.
“There are no plans to address this issue,” Psaki told CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer. “He’s tracking this closely, he’s following this closely, but the State of the Union will not be about this issue.”
The President will, however, “absolutely” highlight the merits of the Iran nuclear deal, she said.
A senior White House source later told Fox News’ Shepard Smith that there was “no chance” the President would discuss the incident during his State of the Union Address.
On Tuesday, the Islamic Republic of Iran seized two U.S. Navy vessels while they were navigating the Persian Gulf, detaining the ships and ten American sailors on Iran’s Farsi Island, where an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) base is located.
According to state-run Fars News Agency, which is affiliated closely with the IRGC, Iran has detained 9 men and one woman, along with their boats, which are reportedly armed with 50 caliber machine guns. Iran has “confiscated” the GPS equipment on the riverine boats, according to reports.
The state-run news agency accused the American sailors of “trespassing” and “snooping” into Iranian waters.
Iran has shown extreme protectiveness over the Perisan Gulf as well as in the Strait of Hormuz, as they seek to advance their geopolitical dominance throughout the Middle East.
Early reports suggested the Obama administration had described the IRGC’s detainment of the two U.S. naval ships and 10 American sailors as “not a hostile act.” However, talking points coming from the IRGC indicate something very different.
The headline of the Fars article indicates that the 10 Americans were arrested and are being held, indicating their detainment. The article also refers to the sailors as “aggressors.”
Furthermore, although earlier reports appeared to indicate the sailors would be “promptly” released, senior defense officials told told The Daily Beast that the U.S. Navy servicemembers will be held hostage “through Wednesday.” The IRGC commanders reportedly suggested releasing the sailors at night would be “unsafe.”
A U.S. official reportedly told CNN’s Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr that the IRGC’s confiscation of the sailors’ GPS and communications equipment was, indeed, “hostile” and that one of two naval vessels has reportedly been disabled and might need to be towed out by the other on Wednesday morning.
New: Iranian Rev. Guard sailors confiscated US sailors' Comms equipment, one US official tells our @barbarastarrcnn that's "hostile"
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) January 12, 2016
The timing of the IRGC’s hostage-taking is also worth noting as it coincides with the eve of President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union Address. The report also arrives the same week that the Obama Administration is expected to begin offering sanctions relief to the Islamic Republic. Iran will receive an estimated 56 to 100 billion-dollar cash infusion as part of the sanctions lifting against Tehran.
Iran recently tested ballistic missiles, directly violating the UN Security Council resolution.
Last year on the night of the State of the Union address, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels attacked the capital of Yemen. The war-ravaged nation’s U.S.-backed President Abd-Rabbuh Mansur Hadi resigned and his Prime Minister Khaled Bahah followed suit shortly after.