June 30, 2016

Navy Reports on Failure in Iran Incident

An unflattering picture of the boats’ crews, as well as Iran.

Responding to a Freedom of Information Act request, the Navy on Thursday released a moderately redacted version of its investigation and findings regarding the January incident in which Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy seized and detained two U.S. Navy small boats that were attempting to travel from Kuwait to Bahrain. This embarrassing episode, by the way, happened on the day of Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address.

The Navy boats had wandered unknowingly into waters near Farsi Island in the northern Persian Gulf when one of them broke down. IRGCN small boats coming to investigate held the crews captive at gunpoint, took the crews and their boats to the small base on Farsi Island, and interrogated them overnight before releasing them the next day.

The report’s findings paint a highly unflattering picture of the small boat crews’ training and preparedness for their mission, their immediate superiors’ level of oversight and planning, their parent command’s awareness of its own units’ operations, and the near-total failure of coordination and planning throughout the NAVCENT command structure before and during this mission.

Readers who wish to review the full report can find it here.

That said, the report also found Iran in violation of several accepted norms of conduct at sea as well as international law, but those findings merely confirm what was already known.

The report makes clear that this incident resulted from too little preparation for too complex an undertaking. Admiral John Richardson, the Chief of Naval Operations, stated, “This will be a case study going forward. There are lessons that apply across our entire Navy.”

We are, as always, fiercely proud of our nation’s fighting forces. We are also sympathetic to the grueling deployment demands often placed upon them, and the cumulative toll that a shrinking budget, a high operational tempo and an unfit commander in chief can take on personnel and equipment. The Navy and the other branches have been conducting combat operations in the CENTCOM AOR more or less continuously since October 2001. That being said, this was a short and sad chapter in the long and storied history of the U.S Navy. We wish them well and hope they do indeed apply the lessons from this case to their vital and irreplaceable mission of protecting our nation.


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