If you believe the way Fox News covered it, the video that surfaced of Iran’s detention of 10 American sailors was an outrage, the entire incident was a failure of the Obama Administration, and it was totally out of line to thank the Iranians for returning our sailors safely. Join me as I recount the absurd crescendo of commentary from hawkish talking heads.
Watch this whole video if you can, but Andrea Tantaros’s comments are most outlandish, and would be hilarious if they weren’t so sad.
John Kerry thanking the Iranians for essentially humiliating us? ...Again, they were on their knees and they weren’t at their weapons. They should have been at their weapons, not on their knees in submission surrendering. But that’s what the Iranians want, and I just find it to be completely egregious and another failure of the Obama-Jarrett-Rice-Kerry foreign policy of thanking—THANKING!—our enemies.
And then some stuff about Ronald Reagan and how he threatened to nuke Tehran that one time. Great analysis, Andrea.
This was just one of a slew of assumptions, hawkish conclusions and just terrible analysis drawn by pundits not just on Fox but on other networks as well, over the last 24 hours.
All we knew at the time that this segment was recorded, and still for that matter, was that two American Riverine Command Boats were transiting between Kuwait and Bahrain when somehow they ran into mechanical and/or navigational issues and entered into Iranian waters around Farsi Island.
We know that the Iranians came, boarded the craft, and escorted them into port at Farsi Island. They then investigated what happened, gave the sailors a safe place to stay and food, and the next day they not only returned them but also their boats to the Navy unharmed as promised hours earlier.
So far we have no indication that Iran had anything to do with the circumstances that caused this event. All indications are that it was the Navy’s problem, either technically, operationally, or logistically that resulted in these boats drifting into Iranian waters.
With these basic facts in mind, some who are seemingly looking for any reason to spill blood in the Gulf and spin anything into a negative for Obama Administration, turned this into a aggressive and outlandish act by the Iranians.
So let’s break down everywhere they got it wrong.
The Video Of The Sailors With Their Hands Up
This has been maybe the biggest source of manufactured outrage from the whole event. What exactly did they expect the Iranians to do here? Boarding any boat is a risky business, let alone one that is bristling with heavy machine guns, stuffed with small arms, and operated by a country that you have extremely bitter relations with and see as a reasonable foe. Are we supposed to believe that the Iranians should not care about the safety of their own crews executing such a dangerous task?
Not just that, but having a crew put their hands up during a boarding action like this is also for their own safety, so that no mistakes or misinterpretations are made that could lead to a massacre. The U.S. Navy does the same when a threat is perceived, even from lowly fisherman just operating in areas where piracy or smuggling is thought to be occurring. A little precaution can keep everyone safe, and keep an international incident from being the prelude to an outright war.
Tantaros says that the crew should have been at their guns. So if that was the case they would have been firing on Iranian boats, in Iranian waters, with at least one of their boats disabled and unable to maneuver. That would have been a suicide mission.
And for what? The result would have likely been 10 dead American sailors and who knows how many Iranians, and a possible war in the Gulf. All over a mechanical issue with a boat and the Iranians doing what most other countries would have done. I doubt these talking heads would give such insightful and hawkish military advice if it were their kid or loved one on that stranded boat in enemy waters.
If you float into Iranian territory, expect to be surrounded by Iranian gunboats, and the fact that having the crew simply put their hands up and demobilize were the Iranian gun boat crews only demands isn’t enraging—it’s downright professional.
Then again, maybe I missed the memo that said the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has diversified into ship-to-shore white glove concierge service for American gunboats.
Hey, Iran is a Islamic theocracy, and it is customary for females to wear a hijab. Some in the U.S. may think such a custom is preposterous but the sailor was not in the U.S., she was in Iran. Showing respect for local norms is not exactly a capitulation; in fact it happens every day.
Furthermore, if it helped ease the tensions at the time, is it really such a bad thing? It’s not like they made her convert to Islam at gunpoint. Is the right time for a protest over Islamic traditions after being taken into custody by the Revolutionary Guard?
Today, pundits are up in arms that the sailor seemingly in command apologized for crossing into Iranian waters while in custody. Like nearly everything else, we don’t know the full circumstances surrounding this apology, but it seemed like that sailor was doing what is best for his subordinates and answering questions as directly as possible. That’s called leadership. If the Navy wants to throw the book at him for breaking the uniform code of military justice that is their mistake to make.
Put all those who think he should have said nothing in the same position and I doubt they would have acted any different, especially while responsible for their crew’s well-being.
Some have acted like these sailors were locked up in solitary for days. Instead, from what we know, they were largely held together in a safe and comfortable place and given food and water while the situation was being investigated and diplomatically resolved.
The next day the sailors were handed over just as promised, all in good condition, as well as their vessels. How is this a negative outcome? Can the Iranians really be blamed for investigating the circumstances surrounding the intrusion? Hardly, we would have done the same.
Some critics are disgusted that Secretary of State John Kerry thanked Iran for working quick to returning the sailors in good condition. How on earth is thanking another country, especially a long-time foe, for doing the right thing bad foreign policy?
This is being treated is as if Iran abducted these sailors from American waters. They did the exact opposite, and anytime a U.S. service person is promptly returned safely after a sensitive incident with another country a small show of gratitude is not just in good taste, but it is totally justified.
The Obama Administration has more than its fair share of foreign policy failings. This incident is not one of them.
Without the increased engagement the U.S. has had with Iran, and the broadened channels of communications between power apparatuses in both countries, this incident could have ended much, much worse than it did.
This is not to say that the Iranians can be trusted, or that the nuclear deal was good or bad on its own merits, but the fact that coordination between the U.S. and Iran during a crisis was not a total mess is encouraging and largely a very good thing.
Some will say that this was resolved so smoothly only because the Iranian nuclear deal is about to become fully enacted in the coming days. Sanctions will be lifted and Iranian monies unfrozed, a move that Iran stands to benefit greatly from. And this may be so, but the IRGC is no fan of this deal. In fact they straight up appose it from almost all indications. Yet their behavior, as far as we can tell, seemed professional during this incident.
Time will only tell if U.S.-Iran relations are changing for the long run, but all signs seem to signify that they are at this point, at least in some small but very critical ways.
Even in the highly unlikely chance that the Iranians end up having somehow spoofed these boats’ navigation systems into entering their waters, it still does not justify the hyperbole put forward by many on cable news who had no such info at the time the event occurred.
The art of foreign policy is not a blistering thumb war, it is as methodical game of chess, although it seems like many would love to make you think it is otherwise. The U.S. got its sailors back safe and sound. That should be seen as a win.
Contact the author at Tyler@jalopnik.com.