Hamilton: Iranian coup: A tale of two U.S. Navy vessels
Last week, the U.S. Navy dispatched two of its fearsomely armed Riverine Command Boats (RCBs) to patrol between Kuwait and Bahrain. Somehow, the RCBs were seized by the Iranian Navy; the crewmembers arrested, and — even though the U.S. and Iran are not technically at war — treated as Prisoners of War (POWs). How could this happen?
The Swedish-designed, U.S.- manufactured RCBs cost $2.8 million per copy. Each RCB carries six machine guns, to include a .50 caliber Gatling gun, plus grenade launchers. Covered with armor plating able to deflect AK-47 fire, the RCB’s 49.4 mile-per-hour top speed means RCBs can outrun every known surface warship.
To guard against surprise attack, RCBs carry the Sea FLIR III infrared sensor system, thermal imaging, a laser rangefinder, and long-range radar. Navigation is by a top-of-the line GPS and chart plotter system, along with traditional chart and compass back-up. The RCB’s world-wide communications gear nets with ships, aircraft, and ground forces.
Operating in pairs, the RCBs provide each other with mutual fire support. If one RCB is disabled, the other RCB can tow it to safety. Thus, the question arises: How could two RCBs lose their ability to navigate at the same time and stray into Iranian waters? And how could two world-class weapons platforms be seized by the, arguably, inferior Iranian Navy?
Apparently, one of the RCBs had a propulsion problem and radioed U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain for assistance. Congressman Louis Gohmert (R) of Texas claims the Obama White House intervened, asked the Iranian Navy to provide assistance, and ordered the U.S. 5th Fleet to stand down.
By long-standing naval custom, disabled boats found in territorial waters are rendered assistance, and simply escorted back into international waters. Their crews are not subjected to POW treatment or put on world-wide video display, looking like criminals.
But, instead of being treated as distressed vessels exercising the mariners’ right of innocent passage, the Iranians arrested the crew members, treated them as POWs, and, somehow, got the officer-in-charge to make filmed statements praising the Iranians and saying the treatment the crew received was: “Fantastic.”
Absent Congressman Gohmert’s explanation — citing White House intervention — it appears Articles II and V of the U.S. military’s Code of Conduct were violated. Article II states: “I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.” Article V reads: “When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the best of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.”
Alternatively, could it be that the White House-imposed Rules of Engagement (ROE) robbed the RCBs of their “means to resist”?Were the RCB’s awesome weapons even permitted to be loaded? Congress should demand to see the Operations Order under which the two RCBs left Kuwait for Bahrain and demand copies of all the communications between the RCBs, U.S. 5th Fleet, and the White House. Meanwhile, the RCB crews are left twisting in the wind.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame, and is a recipient of the University of Nebraska 2015 Alumni Achievement Award. He was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the Infantry School, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
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