Just hours before President Obama was set to deliver the State of the Union address, Iranian military forces seized two U.S. Navy boats that accidentally drifted into Iranian waters. Ten Americans quickly found themselves in Iranian custody.
This could have gotten very ugly, very quickly. As recently as 2007, a British ship was seized in the Persian Gulf and its crew was held in Iran for 13 days, and it was hard not to wonder last night whether a similar crisis might unfold now. Marco Rubio ran to Fox News to insist Iran was testing President Obama’s “resolve.”
If that’s true, by Rubio’s reasoning, I think it’s safe to say Obama passed the test just fine.
Ten U.S. sailors detained by Iran were released early Wednesday, officials said.The sailors – nine men and one woman – were held overnight on Iran’s Farsi Island. They were taken into custody Tuesday when their two small U.S. navy riverine vessels drifted into Iranian-claimed waters during a training mission.
Based on the information available this morning, the American sailors were unharmed. NBC News’ reporting added that the crew members were “given medical exams aboard the U.S.S. Anzio before being flown to shore and taken to the American navy base in Bahrain.”
In other words, we’re looking at a situation that could have devolved into a serious incident, but seems to have been resolved within hours, not days, thanks to the administration’s effective diplomacy.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a statement, “We appreciate the timely way in which this situation was resolved.” Secretary of State John Kerry, who spoke to his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, yesterday to secure the Americans’ release, added, “That this issue was resolved peacefully and efficiently is a testament to the critical role diplomacy plays in keeping our country safe, secure, and strong.”
Not to put too fine a point on this, but the way in which this was resolved is heartening. Iran detained 10 Americans. We called for their release. Iran quickly released the sailors unharmed. There was no need for threats, saber-rattling, escalation, or drama.
It will be a long time before the United States and Iran have a good relationship, but thanks to meaningful diplomatic work, tensions have cooled, and constructive conversations are now possible. As of this morning, the dividends are obvious.