Iran detains 10 US Marines: Second Iran-US row since the nuclear deal

US marines held in iran

The Iranian Forces have detained two United States Navy patrol boats carrying 10 armed marines, who claim that they had ‘mistakenly ‘entered the Iranian territory in the Persian Gulf as they sailed from Kuwait to Bahrain.

US officials say that they had lost contact with the boats while they travelled between Kuwait and Bahrain and that there was a “mechanical error” in one of the boats which could be a reason for the boats to go astray. The Marines were captured by Iran’s Republican Guard Corps (IRGC) on January 12, and taken to Farsi Island. The official Iranian report stated that “the passengers of the American boats are in good health and being kept in a proper location”.  Farsi Island is one of the Iranian Islands in the Persian Gulf covering an area of about .25km and is barred to the public. There is a functional base of the Iran’s Republican Guard Corps, which has its own naval units.

Tehran has called for an apology from Washington for “violating” Iran’s territorial waters. There are also some allegations against the US, accusing them of spying on Iran

US’ Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have been in touch over the release and the safety of the Americans. The Iranian side has assured that the Americans would be released soon. “Everybody should be aware of the fact we have been in touch with the Iranians and they have assured us that our sailors are safe and that they’ll be allowed to continue their journey promptly,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. On the other hand, Brig. Gen. Ramezan Sharif,a spokesman of IRGC, was quoted on January 13 in the Iranian news media as saying that talk of an immediate release was “speculation.” He said an “investigation” was underway and that “talks” were being held with the sailors, suggesting that they were being interrogated.

The Obama administration is hopeful that the issue would be resolved soon as the American naval boats supposedly strayed into the Iranian waters, and so far no act of hostility has been committed by the Iranian authorities.

The detention has occurred a few days before the US-Iran Nuclear deal was to come into force. According to the deal, Iran would be relieved from international sanctions in exchange for scaling back its nuclear programme but this incident holds the potential to throw a wrench in the ongoing Iran-US rapprochement.

Only two weeks, ago there was another incident when Iran launched unguided rockets about 1,500 yards from the carrier USS Harry S. Truman and a pair of smaller U.S and French warships in the Strait of Hormuz, strategically linking  the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea. There is a constant US presence in the waters of the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden, where Iran and the US watch each other which lead to occasional scuffles.

(Rubaina Sangha contributed inputs for this article)

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