Iran Releases US Sailors

 

The US Navy confirmed their release:

Ten U.S. Navy Sailors safely returned to U.S. custody today, after departing Iran,” the United States Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain said in a statement. “There are no indications that the sailors were harmed during their brief detention.”

I know we’re all immensely relieved for them and their families.

I have no idea what that was all about. And stories like this make me feel I can’t know what it’s about. I assume they were seized because someone in the Revolutionary Guards wanted to create an embarrassing incident for Obama and Kerry — or maybe for Zarif and Rouhani. If so, it seems highly likely that they were trying to queer the nuclear deal. But why now, why after they removed the core of the heavy water reactor at Arak? Why would you do that and then not take the money?

It seems highly likely that they were released because they were instructed to do so by someone with more power.

Or maybe the boat really did just have a mechanical problem.

If they were trying to send the US a signal, they failed. I’m the US. We’re going to elect a new government pretty soon, so Iran’s got to send its signal to us, not Obama and Kerry. And I don’t have a clue what they’re trying to tell me.

I’m glad the sailors are safe.

Published in Foreign Policy, General
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  1. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    There were probably some heated discussions internally with hardliners wanting a different outcome. Good that the moderates prevailed. Doesn’t mean they always will.

    • #1
  2. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Marion Evans:There were probably some heated discussions internally with hardliners wanting a different outcome. Good that the moderates prevailed. Doesn’t mean they always will.

    If that’s what happened — and obviously, we’re just entirely speculating — it doesn’t sound as if the moderates have enough control over the hardliners to prevent them from pulling this kind of stunt in the first place. But they do have enough control to get them to walk it back.

    It frustrates me that we’re never going to know.

    • #2
  3. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    If they were trying to send the US a signal, they failed. I’m the US. We’re going to elect a new government pretty soon, so Iran’s got to send its signal to us, not Obama and Kerry. And I don’t have a clue what they’re trying to tell me.

    Great points.  Nor do I.  But perhaps Michael Ledeen’s latest description of the mess that is internal Iranian politics is apt.

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Were the boats and other equipment also returned?

    • #4
  5. dbeck Inactive
    dbeck
    @dbeck

    You can believe that we will never know the truth about any of this incident, the how, why and so on. It’s just not in our government’s DNA to tell the truth about anything. We will get a spin or we will get “nothing to see here” as usual.

    • #5
  6. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Arahant:Were the boats and other equipment also returned?

    I don’t know. The New York Times is reporting that Fars (Iranian state media) claims they kept the GPS to prove that they were indeed in Iranian territorial waters. It doesn’t say whether Fars reported keeping everything else — and even if it did, Fars isn’t my go-to source for accurate reporting.

    • #6
  7. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    dbeck: It’s just not in our government’s DNA to tell the truth about anything.

    It’s understandable that the government wouldn’t tell us the truth about many plausible scenarios under which this could have happened — scenarios of which we’d basically approve, if we knew. Though I’ll bet it gets spun as, “See how effective our engagement has been? Now it only takes a day to get our hostages back.”

    And for all I know, that’s a legitimate way of looking at it. I just don’t have enough information to begin to evaluate what just happened.

    • #7
  8. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    Yanking our chain, just to let us know they can.

    Maybe also just to add a little extra dusting of humiliation onto Obama, Kerry, and the Great Satan generally.

    Forecast:  More of this in the remaining year of the Obama administration, possibly continuing into the next depending on who is elected.

    • #8
  9. Quietpi Member
    Quietpi
    @Quietpi

    There is so much we don’t know about this whole thing that we really need to know.  So many things don’t add up.

    • #9
  10. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    Nick Stuart: Yanking our chain, just to let us know they can.

    I think you’re right, but it’s also advertising.

    The U.S. is weak, Iran is strong. They can imprison U.S. sailors at whim – do you think Obama would do anything about it? I doubt most the Middle Eastern governments think so.

    Also I have a question for the more regionally savvy – doesn’t Iran claim excessive jurisdiction over the strait of Hormuz and other waters in the region?

    If so this might be a way to try and enforce those claims de facto when they aren’t recognized by other countries.

    • #10
  11. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    This may be overly cynical, but what did the administration have to give or promise Iran for such a quick turnaround?

    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I want to know what that was all about, too. But I keep reminding myself that when we try to understand the Arab/Persian mentality about anything, we’re looking through a rational Western lens. I hope we find out the truth, but I doubt it. Thanks, Claire.

    • #12
  13. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Susan Quinn:I want to know what that was all about, too. But I keep reminding myself that when we try to understand the Arab/Persian mentality about anything, we’re looking through a rational Western lens. I hope we find out the truth, but I doubt it. Thanks, Claire.

    This is the most condescending thing I’ve read about Arabs or Persians on Ricochet! I take it you did not mean to say these races or polities are irrational, but maybe you could rephrase?

    • #13
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Titus Techera: but maybe you could rephrase?

    Please tell me your kidding, Titus . . .

    • #14
  15. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Susan Quinn:

    Titus Techera: but maybe you could rephrase?

    Please tell me your kidding, Titus . . .

    No, not at all. I’m not dead serious; I certainly do not mean to give offense. I’m sure, no more did you… But those people’s mentality ain’t rational? About anything?

    If you mean, they prefer government by conspiracy or cannot seem to shake it, I understand that; if you mean, the difference between private & public with them is a shocker, I understand that. I’m not sure what you mean–only trying to be friendly.

    But I will point out that no small number of your own countrymen believes things about your last couple of presidents that comfortably stretch the gamut from a little dealing with the devil to murdering thousands…

    Maybe that can serve as rapprochement between mentalities?

    • #15
  16. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    Titus,

    Just because they aren’t looking through a rational Western lens doesn’t mean they aren’t looking through a rational Persian lens. Geesh!

    • #16
  17. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Z in MT:Titus,

    Just because they aren’t looking through a rational Western lens doesn’t mean they aren’t looking through a rational Persian lens. Geesh!

    Mr. Z, let me thank you for the explanation. I sense you are exasperated–this is, I bet, because we do not quite share the same rationality. I thought maybe there was something I did not get in the comment to which I objected! It has not occurred to me that there is a different rationality in Persia than in, I guess, the West? I thought rationality is the same everywhere & for everyone–hence my shock at the notion. Again, I did not suspect any evil intent, but I did not see how to construe things in a happy light! Let us by all means sunder rationality to fit the borders of–let me guess–culture. Then we will be friends while disagreeing-

    • #17
  18. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    I am not all that worried about this incident. Iran always looks for ways to show toughness against the West. I am glad that our sailors were returned unharmed and relatively quickly. If the Iranians had held onto them for more than a day then things would be different.
    People complained that Obama didn’t mention the incident during his address, but I am sure he didn’t want to risk making things worse by escalating the situation when it looked like the sailors were going to be returned in a few hours.

    • #18
  19. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Titus Techera: I thought rationality is the same everywhere & for everyone–hence my shock at the notion.

    I can understand what Susan meant, but you are correct. There is only one rationality. The particular rational for the particular incident may rest on different cultural or individual assumptions, but the same processes should be used, as much as humans are ever rational. It is the same as there is only one human nature. Individuals may vary, especially based on knowledge and assumptions, but all else being equal, they have the same nature.

    • #19
  20. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    Titus,

    I am sure Susan when she made her comment was emphasizing the Western part not the rational part. Rational thinking is merely logical thinking based upon ones set of assumptions and hierarchy of values. Different cultures rank values differently and so can come up with different rational answers given the same set of conditions. As we can seen here, your rational thought led you to take offense where Susan’s rational thought intended none.

    • #20
  21. dbeck Inactive
    dbeck
    @dbeck

    Environment and ideology affect thought processes. We are not all the same. Progressive thought has argued for years that truth is relative. What might be true for you is not necessarily true for me, so they say. We do not all believe in the same God nor for some, belief in God at all. Universalism is a pipe dream. Rational thought is in the eye of the beholder.

    • #21
  22. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Z in MT:Titus,

    Rational thinking is merely logical thinking based upon ones set of assumptions and hierarchy of values. Different cultures rank values differently and so can come up with different rational answers given the same set of conditions. As we can seen here, your rational thought led you to take offense where Susan’s rational thought intended none.

    I think you & I are headed to a quarrel about fundamentals in which the kind lady was not at all involved, so I am happy to leave her out–it is your quarrel now, gentleman that you are.

    Rationality cannot depend on values, or else it is not at all rationality. Rationality is not mere logic. It is adequacy to the facts. There are hard limits on any values you can care to name.

    No one can deny what’s obvious about this world in which we live & call that rationality, whatever their values. Values cannot turn stone into food nor make pigs fly like birds; nor turn day into night–nor summer into winter. All human beings because they are human beings, or insofar as they are human beings, are rationally aware of the way of the world.

    Now, leaving aside the practical matters, I warn you of a theoretical concern: If you think values & therefore culture underlie ‘rational answers’, the reason that you misunderstand will force you to say, nevertheless, & however you may hate it, that rationality or logic is just another value among many, dependent on culture!

    • #22
  23. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    dbeck:Environment and ideology affect thought processes. We are not all the same. Progressive thought has argued for years that truth is relative. What might be true for you is not necessarily true for me, so they say. We do not all believe in the same God nor for some, belief in God at all. Universalism is a pipe dream. Rational thought is in the eye of the beholder.

    Not for my sake, but for Miss Berlinski’s, say it with me: Two & two is five!

    • #23
  24. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Titus Techera: Mr. Z, let me thank you for the explanation.

    Goodness! Yes, Mr. Z has it right. It’s true that I am biased for Western rationality which is bound by our culture. At the same time (and this is true for many cultures that are not like our own), it’s hard to understand sometimes why people take the steps they do. Thanks for rescuing me, Mr. Z.

    • #24
  25. dbeck Inactive
    dbeck
    @dbeck

    Titus Techera

    Not for my sake, but for Miss Berlinski’s, say it with me: Two & two is five!

    Depends on where you are and how you count. Me, I like the bakers dozen.

    • #25
  26. Vald the Misspeller Inactive
    Vald the Misspeller
    @ValdtheMisspeller

    Z in MT:I am not all that worried about this incident. Iran always looks for ways to show toughness against the West. …

    Not even worried about the Navy putting it’s people in harm’s way without the wherewithal to get themselves out? It’s not like the Iranians haven’t pulled this crap before.

    • #26
  27. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Vald the Misspeller: before

    That was the past. In the future, there will be no war-

    • #27
  28. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines
    @EricHines

    From the link in OP:

    On Monday, according to Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency, the Iranian government oversaw the removal the core of the 40 MW IR-40 heavy water reactor at Arak and filled it with cement.

    All we have on this is the word of the Iranian government.  There’s not a syllable in the article indicating that the “removal” was monitored.

    On OP, Fox News is reporting that the boats were returned, too; although they don’t mention the GPS.

    Threatening the nuclear weapons deal?  I don’t think the Iranians care.  They’re already violating it with impunity, and they know they’ll get the money out of this administration, no matter what they do.

    Eric Hines

    • #28
  29. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Claire,

    But why now, why after they removed the core of the heavy water reactor at Arak? Why would you do that and then not take the money?

    The boat manoeuvre is just Iran playing with the brains (so-called) in the White House. Sort of like a very small cat playing with a very large mouse.

    I think you should ask anonymous about the Reactor core. The Iranian procedure should be quite simple.

    1. The cement filled old core is a perfect propaganda piece and will be on display for all to see.
    2. A new core probably more powerful than the first has already been constructed elsewhere.
    3. Wait for the proper moment to throw the inspectors out and shut off the cameras. Obviously, after they’ve got the money and have made plenty of deals for arms..etc.
    4. Quickly install the ready-made new core.

    Presto, we’re back in business. The Iranians would think the Obama Administration was Santa Claus if they believed in Christmas.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #29
  30. gts109 Inactive
    gts109
    @gts109

    So, now there are pictures all over Twitter of the sailor on hands and knees surrendering. Of course, the Iranians are violating the Geneva Convention by distributing these pictures for propaganda purposes. But, the pictures raise many questions in my mind, none of which have been answered by any journalists, as far as I can tell.

    The Iranian boats that captured the U.S. boats ones appear considerably smaller than ours, and less well-armed (really, the Iranian vessels look like sport fishing boats with no fixed arms). Even assuming that our boats were experiencing technical difficulties–and recall, there were two of them, what are the odds that both boats were experiencing similar mechanical or navigational problems at the same time (virtually zero, IMO)–why would our sailors surrender to inferior forces, even if they were in Iranian territory? Are they under restrictive rules of engagement that prohibit engaging aggressive Iranian vessels? If the Iranians were there to “help,” why couldn’t the Americans have told them that they’d wait for American help? Speaking of which, where was the American backup? Where were the Navy fighter jets, helicopters, and larger vessels swooping in to save the day? Were they ordered not to engage too?

    Look, I’m a land-lubber, so maybe there are some obvious answers to my questions. But it’d be great if a journalist could provide us with some facts. I can’t find any from the usual sources.

    • #30
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