An AP Writer has just tweeted the most bizarre statement from the Pentagon. The only reasonable way that I can interpret this is that Iran has somehow stolen two boats from our Navy, and while they intend to return the crew, they are keeping the boats:
— Matt Lee (@APDiploWriter) January 12, 2016
A subsequent quote from the Pentagon made to a different AP reporter suggested that Iran has promised to return both the crew and vessels. What the Pentagon spokesman does not say is how the Iranians came to have possession of this boat, why they are in a position to be making this promise at all, and whether any damage has been done to the boats at all. Doesn’t this seem like maybe a huge deal, if Iran used any force at all in taking these boats? I mean, a bigger deal than most actual wars are started over? If true, is there any way the United States – even under the lamest of ducks for a President – can allow this to occur without a military response of some sort against Iran? You know, our good allies in Iran who we were working on the giving them nuclear weapons thing with?
UPDATE: The tweets from the media continue to not be extremely helpful in shedding light on the exact nature of this situation, or what its cause might have been:
BREAKING: White House says is working to resolve situation with Navy boats in Iranian custody, wants personnel returned to normal deployment — Reuters Top News (@Reuters) January 12, 2016
As of the writing of this update, that’s the most recent tweet from Reuters, with no clarification yet what “working to resolve” constitutes, or what they are asking for the Iranians to do, or (again, most importantly), how the Iranians got the boats in the first place.
UPDATE II: NBC News tweets the first alleged explanation for how the boats came to be in Iranian custody:
NBC News: 10 US sailors were on training mission when their boat experienced mechanical difficulty and drifted into Iranian-claimed waters
— Jesse Rodriguez (@JesseRodriguez) January 12, 2016
As Sean Davis has properly noted on Twitter:
UPDATE III: Just now, Jake Tapper had Josh Earnest on CNN and told Earnest that members of Congress were making calls for Obama to personally brief them on the situation in Iran before the SOTU tonight. Earnest responded, basically, “Someone from the national security team will call them.” Tapper responded, essentially, “Come on, 10 American sailors are in Iranian custody right now.” Earnest was wandering and noncommittal in his response, which I am sure was the point.
UPDATE IV: The alleged description of the boats becomes more clear, along with the official narrative for the incident:
WASHINGTON — Iran detained two small U.S. patrol vessels in the Persian Gulf on Tuesday after the boats apparently sailed within the territorial waters of Iran’s Farsi Island, the Pentagon confirmed. The two vessels, described as riverine boats, were carrying 10 U.S. personnel from Kuwait to Bahrain in the Persian Gulf when the Navy lost contact with them, said two defense officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. When the Navy realized it had lost contact with the two vessels, it conducted a wide-area search of the Persian Gulf, the officials said. They determined Iran had detained the ships, the officials said. “We have subsequently been in contact with Iranian authorities who have informed us of the safety and well-being of our personnel. We have received assurances the sailors will promptly be allowed to continue their journey,” the officials said, reading a prepared Pentagon statement.
Two words are big in this statement, the first being “apparently” which might as well be “is alleged by Iran,” since by all accounts the Navy lost contact with the boats. Secondly, the word “subsequently” is kind of big, because it implies (consistent with the narrative) that Iran did not just rescue the hapless sailors and then call up the United States and say, “Hey, new ally, we found some of your sailors stranded in our waters and gave them a ride to safety, when would you like to come get them? Instead, it took a pretty significant amount of effort to find the boats at all, which leads one to wonder where and what the Iranians had done with them. Curioser and curioser.
UPDATE V: Per the Fars News Agency, the Iranian government is basically accusing the boats of having been involved in spying:
The two boats each had several 50. cal guns and were “snooping around” in Iranian waters, Fars News Agency says
— Thomas Erdbrink (@ThomasErdbrink) January 12, 2016
I tell you what that is not hopeful for, is the swift return of the sailors to the United States.
UPDATE 6: CNN reminds us that a couple of days ago, Iran conducted an unannounced live fire exercise less than 1500 yards away from an American aircraft carrier. So we should definitely have no reason to believe that they are deliberately escalating aggression against our Persian Gulf naval assets to see how far they can press Obama before he reacts.