The two US Navy riverine command boats intercepted in Iranian territorial waters yesterday were sent on their way along with the crew of 10 US sailors after brief detention on Iranian soil. According to news reports, the well-armed warships either suffered mechanical or navigational difficulties which caused them to enter Iranian territory (although it may well have been a game of cat-and-mouse to test the Iranian response). The US sailors were apparently treated well, enjoyed what appeared a decent meal in relaxed surroundings, and in the end apologized for the mistake and praised their treatment by the Iranians.
Thanks to President Obama’s policy shift on Iran toward engagement and away from isolationism, Secretary of State John Kerry was able to telephone his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Zarif and quickly defuse what just months ago would have been a far more serious situation.
This should be a good-news story about the value of diplomacy and reducing tensions with adversaries, but Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was having none of it. That Kerry expressed his appreciation to the Iranians for swiftly releasing the American sailors only showed the Obama Administration’s “craven desire to preserve the dangerous Iranian nuclear deal at all costs evidently knows no limit,” said McCain in a press release.
McCain was furious that “Obama administration officials seem to be falling over themselves to offer praise for Iran’s graciousness” and was outraged that the Iranians dared interfere with the actions of US military vessels operating in Iranian waters.
In the world of John McCain, only the United States has the right to national sovereignty. The US military has the right to act anywhere and everywhere and the rest of the world dare not raise a question.
According to McCain, “sovereign immune naval vessels are exempt from detention, boarding, or search. Their crews are not subject to detention or arrest.” Imagine the tune McCain would have been singing if a well-armed Iranian naval vessel had been spotted in US territorial waters off the coast of New York. Would he have so rigorously condemned any US interference in the actions of Iran’s sovereign naval vessels?
Leave it to some clever Twitterers to post an example of the difference between US and Iranian detention.