Saturday, 7 January 2012
US Navy Iran Fishing Boat Rescued From Suspected Pirates
WASHINGTON — The political tensions between the U.S. and Iran over transit in and around the Persian Gulf gave way Friday to photos of rescued Iranian fisherman happily wearing American Navy ball caps.
The fishermen were rescued by a U.S. Navy destroyer Thursday, more than 40 days after their boat was commandeered by suspected Somali pirates in the northern Arabian Sea. The rescue came just days after Tehran warned the U.S. to keep its warships out of the Persian Gulf – an irony not lost on U.S. officials who trumpeted the news on Friday.
"We think it's very doubtful that the Iranians or the pirates were aware of recent events of the last couple days," Rear Adm. Craig S. Faller, commander of the U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Group involved in the rescue, told reporters by phone Friday. "Once we released them (the fishermen) today they went on their way very happily, I might add, waving to us wearing USS Kidd Navy ball caps."
Schminsky said the Iranian boat's captain thanked the U.S. for assistance. "He was afraid that without our help, they could have been there for months," Schminsky said in a prepared release.
The U.S. team gave the crew food, water and medical care, and on Friday morning they moved the captured pirates to the Stennis. They will remain there while the U.S. considers options for prosecution and consults with other nations that have joined forces against piracy.
"Sadly, this is not a new thing," Nuland told reporters, citing more than 1,000 pirates picked up at sea who are under prosecution in some 20 countries. "So this is always a question of where to send them and who will do the prosecution."
Asked if the rescue mission could provide a chance for a thaw in relations with Iran, Nuland declined to comment. She said the Navy had made a "humanitarian gesture" to take the Iranians onboard, feed them and ensure they were in good health before setting them off. She said the U.S. and Iranian governments have had no direct contact over the incident.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called Faller on Friday to congratulate him on the rescue, adding that, "When we get a distress signal, we're going to respond. That's the nature of what our country is all about."