US Sailors in Iranian Hands? Don’t Panic.

You may already be aware of the 10 U.S. sailors taken into Iranian custody after their swiftboat-style ships ran into distress. Will this become the story that reshapes the US political race? Probably not… in fact, the sailors may already be back in friendly hands by the time you read this.

But you wouldn’t know that from the twitter response. The hyperbolic assertions of those painting this as a Carter-esque hostage crisis are as misguided as they are premature:

Diplomacy may not move at the speed of Twitter, but here’s what we already know:

  • Secretary of State John Kerry maintains that the incident began due to a mechanical problem, and that they drifted into undisputed Iranian territorial waters. Iran has full rights under international law to patrol and enforce their sovereignty of these waters.
  • Iran has communicated that every sailor is safe and will be returned promptly.
  • State-run Iranian media has claimed the crews were “arrested” for a spying-related offense, but this message has not been borne out by Iran’s diplomatic posture.
  • The crew is currently on a small Iranian island (Farsi Island) and not mainland Iran.
  • US officials have stated that the sailors will be sent on their way shortly.

What should we conclude from this? So far, this appears to be no more than a routine response to sailors in distress, albeit between two countries whose relationship remains frosty at best. Let’s treat it as such.


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