Iran says it has released 10 US Navy sailors

Iran released the 10 U.S. Navy sailors who were detained after two Navy Riverine boats drifted into Iranian territorial waters, Iranian state media reported Wednesday.

There was no immediate confirmation from the U.S. that the sailors had been freed and it was unclear whether the two countries had made a specific arrangement to secure the sailors’ release. A U.S. official told Fox News earlier Wednesday there was no set timetable for the sailors’ release.

The Iran Revolutionary Guard’s naval chief said earlier Wednesday that initial reports the sailors were to be released was “speculation,” adding that Iran’s foreign minister had demanded an apology from the U.S. for entering Iranian waters.

Gen. Ali Fadavi also told state TV Wednesday that the American boats showed "unprofessional acts" for 40 minutes before being picked up by Iranian forces.

"Certainly US presence in Persian Gulf and their passage has never been innocent and we do not deem their passage as innocent," Fadavi said, adding that Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif "had a firm stance (during a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry) on their presence in our territorial waters and said they should not have come and should apologize."

Fadavi added the Guard will carry out orders from the country’s top leadership over the case.

Revolutionary Guard spokesman Ramazan Sharif said the sailors would be debriefed.

"If it is determined, after the investigation is carried out, that their action was not intentional, another approach will be taken," he said. "But if it's determined, after they are debriefed and interviewed, that their entry [into Iranian waters] was for intelligence gathering or irrelevant action, definitely the authorities will take the necessary measures."

The incident came amid heightened tensions with Iran, and only hours before President Barack Obama gave his final State of the Union address to Congress and the public. Obama did not mention the sailors in his speech, which lasted approximately one hour.

After the address, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed his hope for a quick resolution.

"It's a very serious issue," Cardin said. "I hope this is resolved in hours. If not, I think it escalates."

GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz said the detention of the sailor's was a "manifestation of the weakness of Obama's foreign policy."

"Our enemies don't fear us," Cruz said before adding that his prayers were with the sailors and their families.

Iran detained the sailors after their boats drifted into Iranian waters following apparent mechanical problems. The Guard’s Navy confiscated the sailors’ GPS equipment to “prove that American ships were ‘snooping’ around in Iranian waters,” according to The New York Times.

The boats were moving between Kuwait and Bahrain at the time, and the Pentagon briefly lost contact with the crew. Officials said the sailors were part of the Riverine Squadron 1 based in San Diego and were deployed to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain.

The Riverine boats are not considered high-tech and don't contain any sensitive equipment, so there were no concerns about the Iranians gaining access to the crafts.

Officials said a radio signal from one of the boats showed that they were on Farsi Island, setting off efforts to contact the Iranians.

The incident came on the heels of an incident in late December when Iran launched a rocket test near U.S. warships and boats passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

Meanwhile, Iran was expected to satisfy the terms of last summer's nuclear deal in just days. Once the U.N. nuclear agency confirms Iran's actions to roll back its program, the United States and other Western powers are obliged to suspend wide-ranging oil, trade and financial sanctions on Tehran. Kerry recently said the deal's implementation was "days away." ( source )

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