‘Failed leadership at multiple levels’: US sailors were unprepared for capture by Iran – report

FILE PHOTO: An undated picture released by Iran's Revolutionary Guards website shows American sailors sitting in an unknown place in Iran © TIMA
Nine US Navy sailors are facing discipline after a report concluded that multiple mistakes were made by the crew and their superiors leading up to and during their capture by Iran, according to investigators.

The Thursday report said that the crew was unprepared, communication was almost non-existent and they spoke too much to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy when they were captured in January.

"This incident was the result of failed leadership at multiple levels from the tactical to the operational," US Navy investigators wrote in the partially redacted report.

The five-month investigation found that the problems began before the sailors left the port in Kuwait on a short-notice journey to Bahrain. They quickly deviated from their course after setting off to sea, and didn’t know where they were when one of their two boats suffered a mechanical failure.

"The boat crews could visually see Farsi Island [in the Persian Gulf], but were not concerned as they were unaware that it was Iranian or that they were in Iranian waters," the report said.

The crewmen’s supervisors failed to arrange monitoring of the boats’ transits, which would likely have prevented the sailors’ capture.

The sailors were released unharmed after 16 hours in custody due to the efforts of US diplomats, but the incident created a diplomatic crisis that threatened the Iran nuclear deal. The report also found that some crew members improperly provided information to their captors and ate while being filmed, which allowed Iran to use the incident for propaganda purposes.

Six officers and three members of the boat are being disciplined for making mistakes that allowed the incident to happen. All except one officer have been recommended to face non-judicial punishment, a measure that carries no criminal charges but can effectively end the career of a serviceman.

"Our actions on that day in January and this incident did not live up to our expectations of our Navy," Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said at a press conference. "Big incidents like this are always the result of the accumulation of a number of small problems."