US Navy fires commander of sailors who were held by Iran

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Pentagon Confirms the Release of 10 Navy Sailors Detained by Iran

WASHINGTON, May 12 (Reuters) - The U.S. Navy said on Thursday that it had fired the commander of the 10 American sailors who wandered into Iranian territorial waters in the Gulf in January and were briefly held by Iran in an incident that risked becoming an international crisis.

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The Navy said in a statement that it had lost confidence in Commander Eric Rasch, who was the executive officer of the coastal riverine squadron that included the 10 sailors.

Rasch became the first person to be publicly singled out after a preliminary investigation into the incident that occurred near Farsi Island in the Gulf.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the commander of Navy forces in the Middle East had also taken non-judicial action against other sailors involved in the incident but declined to provide details.

See photos from the sailors' release:

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Iran releases detained US sailors
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US Navy fires commander of sailors who were held by Iran
This picture released by the Iranian state-run IRIB News Agency on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, shows detention of American Navy sailors by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Persian Gulf, 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. The nine men and one woman were being held at an Iranian base on Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf after being detained nearby on Tuesday.(Sepahnews via AP)
This frame grab from Tuesday, January 12, 2016 video by the Iranian state-run IRIB News Agency, shows detention of American Navy sailors by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Persian Gulf, Iran. The 10 U.S. Navy sailors detained by Iran after their two small boats allegedly drifted into Iranian territorial waters around one of Iran's Persian Gulf islands a day earlier have been freed, the United States and Iran said Wednesday. (IRIB News Agency via AP)
This frame grab from Tuesday, January 12, 2016 video by the Iranian state-run IRIB News Agency, shows American Navy boats in custody of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Persian Gulf, Iran. The 10 U.S. Navy sailors detained by Iran after their two small boats allegedly drifted into Iranian territorial waters around one of Iran's Persian Gulf islands a day earlier have been freed, the United States and Iran said Wednesday. (IRIB News Agency via AP)
This frame grab from Tuesday, January 12, 2016 video by the Iranian state-run IRIB News Agency, shows Iranian Revolutionary Guards sort out detained American sailors' weapons in the Persian Gulf, Iran. The 10 U.S. Navy sailors detained by Iran after their two small boats allegedly drifted into Iranian territorial waters around one of Iran's Persian Gulf islands a day earlier have been freed, the United States and Iran said Wednesday. (IRIB News Agency via AP)
This frame grab from Tuesday, January 12, 2016 video by the Iranian state-run IRIB News Agency, shows American Navy boat in custody of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Persian Gulf, Iran. The 10 U.S. Navy sailors detained by Iran after their two small boats allegedly drifted into Iranian territorial waters around one of Iran's Persian Gulf islands a day earlier have been freed, the United States and Iran said Wednesday. (IRIB News Agency via AP)
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)
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)
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)
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)
This picture released by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, shows American Navy boats in custody of the guards 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)
This picture released by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, shows American Navy boats in custody of the guards 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)
In this Nov. 15, 2014, photo, a Riverine Command Boat from Costal Riverine Squadron (RIVRON) 2 escorts the USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) in the Persian Gulf. Iran was holding 10 U.S. Navy sailors and their two boats, similar to the one in this picture, on Jan. 12, 2016, after the boats had mechanical problems and drifted into Iranian waters. American officials have received assurances from Tehran that they will be returned safely and promptly. (LaTunya Howard/U.S. Navy via AP)
This Nov. 2, 2015, image provided by the U.S. Navy, shows Riverine Command Boat (RCB) 805 in the Persian Gulf. Iran was holding 10 U.S. Navy sailors and their two boats, similar to the one in this picture, on Jan. 12, 2016, after the boats had mechanical problems and drifted into Iranian waters. American officials have received assurances from Tehran that they will be returned safely and promptly. (Torrey W. Lee/U.S. Navy via AP)
In this Oct. 30, 2015, photo provided by the U.S. Navy, Riverine Command Boat (RCB) 805, along with its crew members, is shown transiting through rough seas during patrol operations in the Persian Gulf. Iran was holding 10 U.S. Navy sailors and their two boats, similar to the one in this picture, on Jan. 12, 2016, after the boats had mechanical problems and drifted into Iranian waters. American officials have received assurances from Tehran that they will be returned safely and promptly. (Torrey W. Lee/U.S. Navy via AP)
In this June 27, 2013, photo provided by the U.S. Navy, a Riverine Command Boat assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron (RIVRON) 4, Task Group 56.7.4, transits open water in the Persian Gulf. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Lewis/U.S. Navy via AP)
This Nov. 2, 2015, image provided by the U.S. Navy, shows Riverine Command Boat (RCB) 805 in the Persian Gulf. Iran was holding 10 U.S. Navy sailors and their two boats, similar to the one in this picture, on Jan. 12, 2016, after the boats had mechanical problems and drifted into Iranian waters. American officials have received assurances from Tehran that they will be returned safely and promptly. (Torrey W. Lee/U.S. Navy via AP)
In this Feb. 23, 2013, photo provided by the U.S. Navy, sailors assigned to Riverine Squadron (RIVRON) 2 perform an âEâ stop while conducting patrol operations. Iran was holding 10 U.S. Navy sailors and their two boats, similar to the one in this picture, on Jan. 12, 2016, after the boats had mechanical problems and drifted into Iranian waters. American officials have received assurances from Tehran that they will be returned safely and promptly. (Blake Midnight/U.S. Navy via AP)
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Such administrative forms of punishment can include things like letters of reprimand and verbal counseling.

The Navy has not yet released the results of its investigation, but in February the military said the Americans had been intercepted on January 12 after the diesel engine in one of their boats developed a mechanical problem.

Two SIM cards were also pulled from the sailors' satellite phones.

Iran's supreme leader awarded medals to navy commanders for capturing U.S. sailors. Iranian media broadcast videos of the detainees, including scenes in which Revolutionary Guards personnel trained weapons on the sailors as they knelt.

Some 15 hours later the Americans were freed after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry intervened with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, averting a diplomatic crisis days before implementation of the Iran nuclear deal and the lifting of international sanctions on Tehran.

LACK OF OVERSIGHT, COMPLACENCY

Explaining Rasch's dismissal, the U.S. official said he had demonstrated a failure to provide effective leadership, which led to a lack of oversight, complacency, and failure to maintain standards in the unit.

The Obama administration has said the sailors' speedy release showed the power of diplomacy and the promise of its new engagement with Iran.

Republicans in Congress have been critical of the deal with Iran, and some have said the detainment of the sailors showed how little regard Iran had for the United States.

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