US Navy report slams sailors and officers involved in Iranian capture of US sailors | News | DW | 01.07.2016
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US Navy report slams sailors and officers involved in Iranian capture of US sailors

At just about every turn the sailors took the wrong course of action, both before and after being captured. Six officers and three sailors are facing disciplinary action, including two officers who have been fired.

The US Navy issued a blistering report Thursday, highlighting how 10 sailors who blundered into Iranian waters in January were ill prepared for their mission, failed basic navigation operations and gave away sensitive information once captured.

The report cited a series of breakdowns, including poor planning, leaders who did not properly consider risks, complacency, a lack of oversight, and low morale.

The sailors seemed unaware they were even in Iranian waters. Navigational systems were consulted by sailors on both boats, which depicted an island as a purple dot.

Two US Riverine Command Boats move through the open seas during a training exercise in 2013.

Riverine Command Boats during a training exercise

Both navigators failed to enlarge the map. Had they done so they would have seen the rocky outcrop was Farsi Island, a well-known base for Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy.

Bungled navigation

Shortly thereafter, as they worked to fix one of the boat's broken engines, the sailors were captured without a fight by the IRGC.

"No crewmembers on either (boat) utilized a paper navigational chart in order to plot their exact location or to identify the island they had seen, even though the charts were available," according to the report.

Indeed, no crewmember even bothered to log the fact that they had seen the island.

"Crewmembers lacked navigational awareness, proper communication with higher authority, and appreciation of the threat environment throughout the transit," the report said.

The mission appeared ill-fated from the start. On short notice, the 10 sailors in two Riverine Command Boats were to travel 300 miles (480 kilometers) from their port in Kuwait to Bahrain.

Getting off to a late start they sought to make up time by taking short-cuts, first blundering into Saudi Arabian waters and then Iranian.

While no one ended up getting hurt, the report criticized the sailors for simply surrendering to the armed Iranians.

"If I had decided to start a firefight, I know a lot of my guys would be dead," the unnamed sailor told investigators. "... I didn't want to start a war with Iran either. ... My thought at the end of the day was that no one had to die for a misunderstanding."

No one dies, but heads roll

The report also blames Iran, saying the IRGC violated international law by impeding the boats' "innocent passage," and violated US sovereign immunity by boarding and seizing the boats.

"Those boats and crewmembers had every right to be where they were that day," said Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, even though they got there by mistake.

Still, six US officers and three enlisted sailors have either been disciplined or are facing disciplinary action, including two officers who were fired.

bik/bw (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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