The Islamic Republic of Iran seized two U.S. Navy vessels while they were navigating the Persian Gulf on Tuesday, detaining the ships and ten American sailors near Iran’s Farsi Island, the Pentagon said.
Farsi Island is home to an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) military base.
It has been confirmed that the boats were captured by the IRGC, whose leaders are aligned with the regime’s hardliners and have expressed staunch opposition to the now-historic nuclear deal.
Key here: Iran’s Fars News agency says US sailors picked up by Revolutionary Guard Corps, from hardline camp & v. opposed to nuclear deal
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) January 12, 2016
Iran’s state-controlled Fars New Agency reported that one of the 10 sailors who have been detained is a woman. They also noted in their article that each of the boats is equipped with three 50 caliber machine guns. The IRGC has also confiscated GPS equipment from the vessels.
Iran media says Revolutionary Guard navy confiscated GPS equipment belonging to 10 US sailors it has arrested, “our border was crossed.”
— Thomas Erdbrink (@ThomasErdbrink) January 12, 2016
Senior U.S. officials told news outlets it is unclear if the ships strayed into Iranian waters before Tehran’s navy captured the vessels. Iran claims the U.S. ships illegally entered Iranian territory.
Secretary of State John Kerry has called Tehran hoping to secure the sailors’ immediate release, according to reports, which state Iran has agreed to let them go “within hours.”
At the same time Kerry was said to be on the phone with Iranian officials, his Twitter account posted the following:
.@HHigginbottom and @ABlinken take part in @WhiteHouse’s #BigBlockOfCheeseDay tomorrow. Send them your toughest #foreignpolicy questions.
— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) January 12, 2016
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told AP Tuesday that the U.S. Navy ships were in transit between Kuwait and Bahrain when they lost contact with their base of communications.
“We have been in contact with Iran and have received assurances that the crew and vessels will be returned promptly,” Cook stated.
Iran has assured the U.S. of the sailors’ “safety and well-being” and “will promptly continue their journey,” a senior White House official told Fox News.
However, a report by the Tasnim News Agency only makes reference to release of the ships’ crew. In fact, the report twice makes a point to suggest that the boat’s occupants would be released, indicating a divergence from statements issued by the White House. Furthermore, the article in the Fars News Agency does not indicate the crew’s imminent release and even makes reference to repeated calls from U.S. officials for the release of prisoners that are currently being held in Iranian prisons.
Officials also indicated that, contrary to suggestions of an imminent release, the crew could be spending the night in captivity.
Official tells @barbarastarrcnn the U.S. sailors may be spending the night in Iran https://t.co/DudzVAnlrO https://t.co/4hoJGjSrH3
— The Situation Room (@CNNSitRoom) January 12, 2016
Sen. Barbara Boxer appeared on MSNBC Tuesday afternoon, telling the far-left news network she hopes the issue will be resolved before the President’s State of the Union address.
“Hopefully this will be resolved, and it won’t be an issue that we’re talking about in a couple of hours,” she said.
Separately, U.S. Representatives Dan Kildee and Matt Salmon have invited the sister and brother-in-law of Amir Hekmati, an American who is being held hostage in an Iranian prison, as their guests for President Obama’s State of the Union Address.
They said in a bipartisan press release:
Today marks the 1,596th day of Amir Hekmati’s unjust imprisonment in Iran on charges fabricated out of whole cloth.
The House of Representatives has been adamant that we must secure his release. To draw attention to Amir’s plight, his sister Sarah Hekmati (guest of Rep. Dan Kildee) and her husband Dr. Ramy Kurdi (guest of Rep. Matt Salmon) will be, by agreement of the whole house, seated together tonight at the President’s State of the Union address to Congress.
“It is our hope that bringing renewed national attention to Amir’s imprisonment will not only keep him in the nation’s prayers, but renew our diplomatic efforts to secure his release.
Update 5:45 PM ET: The U.S. sailors will be held hostage “through Wednesday,” senior defense officials tell The Daily Beast.
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