By Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (RET) ~
With the seizure of two U.S. Navy boats and capture of 10 sailors crewing them, the Iranians once again have demonstrated they have turned the embarrassment of American presidents into an art form.
The mullahs first demonstrated this on Inauguration Day 1981. As the Iranian hostage crisis that plagued President Jimmy Carter’s only term in office came to a close, the mullahs administered a final slap to his face. The plane bringing the U.S. hostages back home was held up on the runway in Tehran until after President Ronald Reagan had officially taken the oath of office. The Iranians wanted to deny Carter the satisfaction they had returned home on his watch.
As Washington prepared for President Barack Obama’s last State of the Union Address, the Iranians jumped at another opportunity to embarrass an American leader.
Full details concerning the circumstances under which the two U.S. boats were seized are still sketchy. It appears one boat had developed mechanical problems and the other chose not to abandon it.
The boats were operating in the Persian Gulf, near Iran’s Farsi Island, apparently drifting into what Iran claimed were its territorial waters. There has been no confirmation by the U.S. Navy that this, indeed, happened or whether the two boats were still in international waters at the time of the confrontation.
However, navigational accuracy has never been a strong suit for the Iranian navy.
In 2007, it seized a boat with 15 British sailors and marines onboard who allegedly had violated its territorial waters. The British command disputed this, providing the coordinates of the seizure – which plotted into international waters. The Iranians claimed the Brits coordinates were incorrect, offering their own set. However, as it turned out the Iranian coordinates fell into international waters as well.
Needless to say, the Iranians quickly did some recalculations to come up with a new set of coordinates finally falling inside their territorial waters.
Just as was the case with the 2007 incident with the Brits, the Iranians have demanded the U.S. issue an apology for its incursion. It is unclear whether one was given.
This picture released by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, shows detained American Navy sailors in an undisclosed location in Iran. Iranian state television is reporting that all 10 U.S. sailors detained by Iran after entering its territorial waters have been released. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said the sailors were released Wednesday after it was determined that their entry was not intentional. (Sepahnews via AP)
At the time Obama began his address, U.S. diplomats were still negotiating for the immediate release of the captive Americans. Not wishing to admit once again Obama has misread the mullahs’ willingness to work with the U.S., he made no mention of the incident.
Fortunately, these American captives were very quickly released. Whether the seizure was another attempt in Iran’s continuing effort to create an international incident (earlier this month Iran fired rockets in the vicinity of U.S. warships) is a matter of debate.
Iranian television aired film of the seizure, showing American sailors made to kneel with hands clasped behind their head. Clearly, the mullahs took great satisfaction knowing, once again, they had succeeded in embarrassing a U.S. president at a time he sought to promote a positive legacy to a national audience.
What the mullahs failed to understand, however, is that Obama is a U.S. president unappreciative of what an embarrassment he has been to America.
A version of this piece previously appeared on http://www.theblaze.com/
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributor Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (Ret.), is a retired Marine infantry officer who served in the Vietnam war, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf war. He is the author of “Bare Feet, Iron Will–Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam’s Battlefields,” “Living the Juche Lie: North Korea’s Kim Dynasty” and “Doomsday: Iran–The Clock is Ticking.” He frequently writes on foreign policy and defense issues.