Navy fires commander of sailors detained by the Iranians


“A Navy official said Rasch failed to provide effective leadership, leading to a lack of oversight, complacency and failure to maintain standards in the unit.”

It’s unconscionable that the Navy is making Rasch the fall guy for this incident after the Obama Administration pretended that nothing amiss had happened in the first place. After the sailors were released, Vice President Joe Biden dismissed the entire incident as the routine treatment of boats with mechanical difficulties. Denying that the U.S. had apologized to Iran, as had been widely rumored, Biden said: “When you have a problem with the boat, (do) you apologize the boat had a problem? No. And there was no looking for any apology. This was just standard nautical practice.” The sailors were blindfolded, made to kneel at gunpoint, and interrogated for hours. But Biden maintained that the entire situation was routine: “The Iranians picked up both boats — as we have picked up Iranian boats that needed to be rescued.” The Iranians, he said, “realized they were there in distress and said they would release them, and released them — like ordinary nations would do.”

Defense Secretary Ash Carter sounded similar notes, thanking Secretary of State John Kerry “for his diplomatic engagement with Iran to secure our sailors’ swift return. Around the world, the U.S. Navy routinely provides assistance to foreign sailors in distress, and we appreciate the timely way in which this situation was resolved.”

Kerry, in turn, was grateful to the Iranians: “All indications suggest or tell us that our sailors were well taken care of, provided with blankets and food and assisted with their return to the fleet earlier today.” He ascribed the Iranians’ swift release of the sailors to communications channels that had been opened during the nuclear negotiations: “I think we can all imagine how a similar situation might have played out three or four years ago, and in fact it is clear that today this kind of issue was able to be peacefully resolved and officially resolved, and that is a testament to the critical role that diplomacy plays in keeping our country safe, secure and strong.” He thanked the Iranians for their “cooperation and quick response.”

So if everything was that wonderful, why fire Rasch?

sailors

“Navy Fires Commander Eric Rasch Over Iran’s Detention of Sailors,” Associated Press, May 13, 2016:

The Navy has fired the commander of the 10 American sailors who entered Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf and were captured and held by Iran for about 15 hours.

In a statement Thursday, the Navy said it had lost confidence in Cmdr. Eric Rasch, who was the executive officer of the squadron that included the 10 sailors at the time of the January incident. He was responsible for the training and readiness of the more than 400 sailors in the unit.

A Navy official said Rasch failed to provide effective leadership, leading to a lack of oversight, complacency and failure to maintain standards in the unit. The official was not authorized to discuss the details publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Rasch has been relieved of his command duties and reassigned, the Navy said.

Although this is the first firing by the Navy regarding the incident, several other sailors received administrative reprimands. The investigation is expected to be finished by the end of the month, and others are likely to be disciplined.

Rasch was promoted to commander of the unit in April — after the Iran incident occurred, but before the preliminary investigation was done.

The sailors, nine men and one woman, were detained after their boat drifted into Iranian waters off Farsi Island, an outpost in the middle of the Persian Gulf that has been used as a base for Revolutionary Guard speedboats since the 1980s….

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