Iran’s brazen decision to detain 10 U.S. Navy sailors just hours before President Obama was to deliver his final State of the Union address makes “a mockery” of the White House, according to conservative analysts and GOP presidential hopefuls, who were quick to pounce on the crisis as a sign of the administration’s weakness.
“This is a gesture and I think we know what gesture it is,” said Danielle Pletka, senior vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
“What we see is an Iran that is causing an enormous amount of trouble in the Middle East, is testing ballistic missiles and is otherwise making a mockery of the president’s suggestions that somehow they would moderate their behavior. “The (Iranian Revolutionary Guard) wanted to embarrass the president on the day of his State of the Union (address),” she added. “And they did.”
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) suggested on CNN that Obama delay the start of his address.
“I think the White House needs to be honest and transparent as quickly as possible with the members of the Congress, the House and the Senate,” Gardner said.
GOP front-runner Donald Trump, at a campaign rally in Cedar Falls, Iowa, said the incident showed that the U.S. “isn’t the same country.”
“It’s just an indication of where the hell we’re going,” Trump said. “I mean, hopefully they get released, and fast. But it seems to be an indication of where we’re going.”
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush tweeted: “If our sailors aren’t coming home yet, they need to be now. No more bargaining. Obama’s humiliatingly weak Iran policy is exposed again.”
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also ripped Obama, saying, “This is the latest manifestation of the weakness of Barack Obama, that every bad actor … views Obama as a laughingstock.”
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson tweeted: “While POTUS is preparing to talk about his so called “accomplishments”, 10 of our American sailors are being held by #Iran.”
The incident began after one of the two small Navy boats had some type of mechanical trouble and they both drifted into Iranian territorial waters as they were moving between Kuwait and Bahrain, according to U.S. officials.
John Kerry thanked Iran for how they treated our soldiers.
Here they are being paraded as trophies on Iranian TV pic.twitter.com/kVkmVYKHzM
— Comfortably Smug (@ComfortablySmug) January 13, 2016
The sailors, nine men and one woman, were being held overnight at an Iranian base on Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf.
A Tehran news agency reported that members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Navy had confiscated GPS equipment from the boats, which would “prove that the American ships were ‘snooping’ around in Iranian waters.”
News of the seizure went viral in the hours before Obama’s address to the nation, raising questions about whether he would address it. The president did not.
Iran accused the sailors of trespassing, but U.S. officials said they had been assured that the crew and boats would be returned safely and promptly by this morning, local time.
In late December, Iran launched a rocket test near U.S. warships and boats passing through the Strait of Hormuz.
The latest crisis comes as Iran is expected in just days to satisfy the terms of last summer’s nuclear deal, an agreement Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry have long trumpeted but Republicans have ripped as a victory for Tehran.
The House was scheduled to vote today on GOP-pushed legislation giving Congress greater oversight of the nuclear agreement.
Kerry, who forged a relationship with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif during the nuclear talks, called Zarif immediately on learning of the incident, a senior U.S. official told the AP. Kerry “personally engaged with Zarif on this issue to try to get to this outcome,” the official said.
Herald wire services contributed to this report.
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