US Officer Fired Over Iran’s Detention of 10 Sailors

US Officer Fired Over Iran’s Detention of 10 SailorsUS Officer Fired Over Iran’s Detention of 10 Sailors

The US Navy said on Thursday it had fired the commander of the 10 American sailors who wandered into Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf in January and were briefly held by Iran in an incident that risked becoming an international crisis.

The navy said in a statement that it lost confidence in Commander Eric Rasch, who was the executive officer of the coastal riverine squadron that included the 10 sailors, Reuters reported.

Rasch became the first person to be publicly singled out after a preliminary investigation into the incident that occurred near Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf. A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the commander of navy forces in the Middle East had also taken non-judicial action against other sailors involved in the incident but declined to provide details.

Such administrative forms of punishment can include things like letters of reprimand and verbal counseling.

The navy has not yet released the results of its investigation, but in February the military said the Americans had been intercepted on January 12 after the diesel engine in one of their boats developed a mechanical problem.

Two SIM cards were also pulled from the sailors' satellite phones.

The Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei awarded medals to Iranian naval commanders for capturing the US sailors.

Iranian media broadcast videos of the detainees, including scenes in which Islamic Revolution Guards Corps personnel trained weapons on the American sailors as they knelt.

Some 15 hours later, the Americans were freed after US Secretary of State John Kerry intervened with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, averting a diplomatic crisis days before the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal and the lifting of international sanctions on Tehran.

  Lack of Oversight

Explaining Rasch's dismissal, the US official said he had demonstrated a failure to provide effective leadership, which led to a lack of oversight, complacency and failure to maintain standards in the unit.

The US administration has said the sailors' speedy release showed the power of diplomacy and the promise of its new engagement with Iran.

Republicans in the US Congress have been critical of the deal with Iran and some have said the detainment of sailors showed how little regard Iran had for the United States.