Report: U.S. May Discipline American Sailors Held at Gunpoint by Iran

This frame grab from Tuesday, January 12, 2016 video by the Iranian state-run IRIB News Agency, shows detention of American Navy sailors by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Persian Gulf, Iran. The 10 U.S. Navy sailors detained by Iran after their two small boats allegedly drifted into Iranian territorial …
IRIB News Agency via AP
Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Navy may discipline some of the American sailors briefly detained at gunpoint and forced to their knees by officers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) earlier this year, an act that has been deemed a violation of international law by some experts, reports NBC News.

Unnamed senior military officials told NBC News that a five-month Navy investigation into the Iran hostage incident, which took place hours before President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, has been completed and is expected to suggest disciplinary action.

Cmdr. Mike Kafka, a U.S. Navy spokesperson, reportedly confirmed that the probe is complete and was “being referred to the appropriate commands for adjudication.”

According to the officials, the investigators cast the blame for the incident on the ten sailors who were arrested on January 12 and released the following day.

“The investigation shows that several things went wrong and several sailors made decisions that ultimately led to the embarrassing event,” reportedly indicated two senior U.S. military officials.

“It was a calamity of errors,” one U.S. military official told NBC News.

Iran argued that the American sailors, who were aboard two U.S. Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf at the time of their arrest, entered Iran’s territorial waters illegally. Meanwhile, the Pentagon said the U.S. service members encountered mechanical troubles, adding that a “navigation error” forced their boats to deviate from their course while en route to refueling.

NBC News learned from the senior military officials that “the investigation recommends that the Naval Expeditionary Combat Command and U.S. forces Central Command in Bahrain consider several sailors — some assigned on the boats involved and others in their chain of command — for potential disciplinary measures.”

Although the officials refused to explicitly say how many sailors will face disciplinary action, one suggested it could be “more than half” of the ten who were arrested by IRGC officers.

“No charges have been filed against any of the sailors but one person has already been relieved of duty because of the incident. Cmdr. Eric Rasch, who was the executive officer at the time of the incident, was removed from his job last month for what the Navy called ‘loss of confidence’ in his ability to lead,” notes NBC News.

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, has suggested that the American sailors were mistreated while in captivityVideo footage of the sailors made public by Iran purportedly shows one American apologizing for the IRGC aggressors, who were hailed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei while the U.S. Navy investigated how sailors ended up in Iranian custody.

“The incident raised tensions between the U.S. and Iran because of the images Iran published of the sailors,” acknowledges NBC News.

Some U.S. legal experts have determined that the arrest of the sailors by Iran constituted a “dangerous violation international law,” and that demands an American response, reports the Navy Times.

Although U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry thanked Iran for releasing the sailors, NBC News cites a State Department official expressing dismay toward Iran’s handling of the incident — using the prisoners for propaganda and flouting international norms.

“We have expressed our strong concern to Iran over the incident,” reportedly said the official, declining to elaborate further about who relayed those concerns to Iran and whether the Shiite country would face any repercussions.

Iran has been designated the leading state sponsor of terrorism by the United States.

Rear Adm. Ali Fadavi, commander of the IRGC Navy, recently warned that the Islamic Republic would drown U.S. warships if they pose a threat, noting that Iran considers the United States its enemy.