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Navy Blasts Both Sailors and Officers for Iran Debacle

The Jan. 12 seizure of a U.S. patrol craft by the Iranians created a major international incident

US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson (R) and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations Vice Admiral John Aquilino, speak about the results of an investigation into a January incident where Iranian forces detained 10 US Navy personnel, during a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, June 30, 2016. / AFP / SAUL LOEB        (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson (R) and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations Vice Admiral John Aquilino, speak about the results of an investigation into a January incident where Iranian forces detained 10 US Navy personnel, during a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, June 30, 2016. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson (R) and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations Vice Admiral John Aquilino, speak about the results of an investigation into a January incident where Iranian forces detained 10 US Navy personnel, during a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, June 30, 2016. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

After being forced to their knees at gunpoint by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and ordered to sail to an Iranian naval base in the Persian Gulf, several detained U.S. sailors cooperated too readily with their captors, the U.S. Navy says, and quickly handed over information like phone and laptop passwords.

That’s one of the conclusions drawn by U.S. Navy investigators after conducting a five-month investigation into the Jan. 12 incident in the Persian Gulf that saw two Navy riverine craft veer off course and break down in Iranian waters, leading to the 16-hour detention of 10 sailors. Tehran released videos of the U.S. sailors kneeling in front of armed Iranian personnel, dealing a public relations hit to a White House still feeling heat for its controversial nuclear deal with Iran. The sailors were freed after Secretary of State John Kerry reached out to his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The Navy released a redacted version of its investigation on Thursday, which pulls no punches in heaping criticism on both the sailors on the boats and the officers in their chain of command. Overall, nine enlisted sailors and officers have been recommended for non-judicial punishment, including three members of the boat crew, which Foreign Policy reported previously.

After being forced to their knees at gunpoint by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and ordered to sail to an Iranian naval base in the Persian Gulf, several detained U.S. sailors cooperated too readily with their captors, the U.S. Navy says, and quickly handed over information like phone and laptop passwords.

That’s one of the conclusions drawn by U.S. Navy investigators after conducting a five-month investigation into the Jan. 12 incident in the Persian Gulf that saw two Navy riverine craft veer off course and break down in Iranian waters, leading to the 16-hour detention of 10 sailors. Tehran released videos of the U.S. sailors kneeling in front of armed Iranian personnel, dealing a public relations hit to a White House still feeling heat for its controversial nuclear deal with Iran. The sailors were freed after Secretary of State John Kerry reached out to his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The Navy released a redacted version of its investigation on Thursday, which pulls no punches in heaping criticism on both the sailors on the boats and the officers in their chain of command. Overall, nine enlisted sailors and officers have been recommended for non-judicial punishment, including three members of the boat crew, which Foreign Policy reported previously.

The report quotes Vice Adm. Kevin M. Donegan, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, as saying he finds “the failures that were documented in this investigation to be a symptom of a poorly led and unprepared unit thrust into a confusing situation that they were unable to comprehend and react to, until it was too late.”

The report also concludes that the unit’s leadership was “derelict in their duties in that they failed to meet even the most basic requirements of leadership, planning, and tactical execution.”

Earlier this month, Donegan relieved Capt. Kyle Moses of his duties as head of the command’s Task Force 56. He also fired Cmdr. Eric Rasch, who at the time of the incident was the executive officer of the Coastal Riverine Squadron 3, and commander of the unit, Cmdr. Gregory Meyer, has been relieved for cause.

The failure of the leadership to properly train and prepare the boat’s crews for the mission to sail from Kuwait to Bahrain left them “unprepared and unaware,” for problems they might have faced by cutting through Iranian territorial waters in order to make up time, and once the Iranians approached, “the boat crews were late in responding to the approaching [Iranian Revolutionary Guard] patrol craft, delaying action to establish a heightened security posture,” the investigation said. “Their lack of force protection left them with few realistic options to resist detention.”

While Iran was within its rights to investigate why the boats were near Farsi island, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday that “Iran violated international law by impeding the boats’ innocent passage” and they also “violated our sovereign immunity by boarding, searching, and seizing the boats, and by photographing and video recording the crew.”

Photo Credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

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