Navy investigation faults U.S. crew and Iranians in capture of 2 U.S. boats

The Navy has released a report on the capture of two U.S. boats by Iran earlier this year, an incident that became a propaganda coup for the Iranian regime. The report faults the officers and crew of the two boats saying they were poorly prepared and violated the code of conduct after being captured. But the report also says Iran had no right to interfere with the boats’ transit. From the Associated Press:

Six officers and three enlisted sailors have been disciplined or face disciplinary action. The report said the boat captains and crews were “derelict in performing their duties,” including by failing to get approval before deviating from their planned transit route. It also faulted them for failing to report an engine failure that led to their capture…

The lengthy investigation concluded that while the boat crews erred in entering Iranian waters, the Iranians violated international law by impeding the boats’ “innocent passage,” and violated U.S. sovereign immunity by boarding and seizing the boats.

“Those boats and crewmembers had every right to be where they were that day,” Richardson said, even though they got there by mistake.

The report faults the Navy commanders for failing to defend the boats when confronted by the Iranians. From Reuters:

The boat captains did not direct their gunners to put on protective gear or to man the weapons on the boat.

Under the standard rules of engagement, U.S. military personnel are obligated to defend their units. However, in the hopes of de-escalating the situation, the captains directed their gunners to step away from their weapons.

“I didn’t want to start a war with Iran,” one of the boat captains told investigators. “My thought at the end of the day was that no one had to die for a misunderstanding.”

CNN reports one positive moment during the encounter was credited to a female sailor:

One of the only bright spots noted in the report was a sailor who “showed presence of mind and fighting spirit when she attempted to activate” at tracking beacon at some point during the incident.

The report also says some of the sailors were too quick to go along with Iranian demands, including participating in a propaganda video in which they were told to look happy. Some sailors also gave up information to their captors while being interrogated. From Reuters:

The report cited the instance of one crew member revealing details to the Iranian interrogators such as the top speed of his vessel and that it conducted “presence” missions.

“It is clear that some, if not all, crew members provided at least some information to interrogators beyond name, rank, service number and date of birth,” the report said.

The Navy says the number of things that went wrong on this one mission will make it a test case for future training.