Navy boats seized in Iranian waters missing items and timeline of events under scrutiny

Despite an official account, released today, of Iran’s seizure and subsequent release of 10 U.S. sailors, there are still some unanswered questions about the circumstances which led to the detention, as well as the timeline.

The seizure happened just hours before Pres. Obama’s State of the Union address and days before the implementation of the Iran Nuclear Deal which will end crippling sanctions on the country.

The US military revealed in what it’s calling a “preliminary timeline of the events of Jan. 12-13,” that the only items missing from the two recovered boats were SIM cards for two satellite phones. CBS news reports that all weapons, ammunition, and gear were accounted for after an inventory was completed on the small armed vessels known as riverine command boats.

While it is clear that the sailors were not mistreated during their 15 hours in the hands of the Iranians, it’s not that clear exactly why the sailors “deviated” from their planned route.

When Defense Secretary Ash Carter spoke about the incident last week he said that the boat crews had “misnavigated.” However, in the official account released Monday, there’s no reference to the navigation error that Carter cited last week.

The sailors were traveling on a 50-mile journey from Kuwait to Bahrain– where the Navy’s 5th Fleet is located. The trouble reportedly began, while the crew was “assessing mechanical problems.”

“At some point one (of the two boats) had indications of a mechanical issue in a diesel engine which caused the crews to stop and begin troubleshooting,” the account said. The other boat also stopped since they were traveling together. At that point they were in Iranian territorial waters, “although it’s not clear the crew was aware of their exact location,” it added.

Iranian military vessels approached — there was a verbal exchange but no gunfire– and eventually the Iranians escorted  the US boats and their crews, at gunpoint, to a small port facility on Farsi Island.

About 45 minutes after the boats had been scheduled to refuel in international waters, naval headquarters in Bahrain was advised there was a “total loss of communication” with the boats, but it’s unclear who advised them. A search and rescue effort followed  involving Coast Guard, US Navy and British Royal Navy. “Some hours later, about four hours after the U.S. first heard that the sailors were being questioned by Iranians, the U.S. Navy cruiser USS Anzio received word from the Iranians that the sailors were in Iranian custody.”

The Americans were released the following morning, after it was made clear that the sailors’ entry into Iranian waters was not intentional.  Iranian state TV showed footage of the one U.S. soldier apologizing, however, VP Joe Biden told CBS news that there was no apology.

“There’s nothing to apologize for,” Biden said. “When you have a problem with the boat you apologize the boat had a problem? No, and there was no looking for any apology. This was just standard nautical practice.”

A Navy command investigation which began Jan. 14 will provide a “more complete accounting of events,” US Central Command said. The investigation will focus on the U.S. sailors’ treatment while in custody, including any interrogation by Iranian personnel, the command stated.

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  • Michele graduated with a B.S. in Telecommunication from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. She has spent numerous years working in the news industry in south Florida, including many positions ranging from being a news writer at WSVN, the Fox affiliate in Miami to being an associate news producer at WPLG-TV, the ABC affiliate in Miami. Michele has also worked in Public Relations and Marketing.

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