Iran’s Swift Release of the U.S. Sailors

A few days ago, there could have been a significant stand off between the United States and Iran.

On Tuesday, 12th of January, two U.S. Navy speedboats were on duty in the Persian Gulf. Moments later, the boats went off course and crossed the Iranian naval border. The boats were soon seized by Iran and all 10 crew members were arrested and held for detention until their release after 16 hours.

Over the course of 16 hours, there were numerous talks about the safety of the sailors, whether the US or Iran were to blame for the issue, and most of all, whether this would turn into a major international standoff or not. In March 2007, a similar incident took place when 15 British marines were arrested by the Iranian Navy and accused of illegally crossing the borders. They were held in custody for 13 days. This incident became an international confrontation until the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad peacefully released the captives. Current officials were cautious not to create similar tension.

The Iranian negotiators told the US that the sailors would be released at the dawn of Wednesday; however, they were freed before noon. With all of their equipment returned, the 10 sailors left the Iranian coastline and joined the American Navy vessel. The Obama Administration congratulated the actions of Iran and thought the nuclear deal between the nations played an important role in negotiating this issue. Therefore, Iran got 55 billion dollars’ worth of its assets unfrozen and had no need to derail the process.

However, unlike the White House, the Pentagon still seems to be frustrated about the actions taken by the Iranian government. They claimed that the sailors were taking a shortcut towards their objective and were planning to pass the Iranian border swiftly but an engine failed preventing them from doing so. As it was just an ‘accident’, the Pentagon found it harsh of the Iranian government to detain the crews. They further criticized the government’s use of prisoners as a tool for propaganda. On Wednesday, an Iranian national broadcast televised footage of the captives on their knees apologizing for what they had done. Claiming that the use of detainees for propaganda purpose is clearly against the international law, the Pentagon showed discomfort towards both the Iranian actions and the White House’s praise.