On Thursday, the Navy dismissed the commander of ten American sailors who were captured and detained for 15 hours by Iran after unlawfully sailing into Iranian territorial waters in January. The incident created a diplomatic row between the two countries, nearly extinguishing the US-Iran nuclear deal at the final moment.
A Navy official speaking on condition of anonymity said the military branch lost confidence in Commander Eric Rasch, the executive officer of the squadron at the time of the incident. Rasch oversaw the training and readiness of the 400-plus sailors in the unit.
A press release by the Navy’s communication department confirmed the statement saying "Captain Gary Leigh, commander, CRG-1, made this determination following his review of a preliminary investigation into the incident near Farsi Island in the Arabian Gulf, Jan. 12-13, involving 10 CRS-3 sailors."
Rasch has been relieved of his command duties and reassigned for failing to meet the standards expected by the US Navy and for a breakdown in oversight of the unit.
The corrective action was the first in what sources expect will be a series of disciplinary measures for what was a uniquely high-profile embarrassment for the US Navy. Not only were the 10 sailors captured when they drifted into Iranian waters, but also one of the US sailors apologized while being videotaped, a clip that became a propaganda boon for the Ayatollah’s regime.
Navy officials continue to claim that the crew drifted into Iranian waters inadvertently, citing a navigational error while others suggest that the crew may have taken an unauthorized shortcut through Iranian waters to meet up with a US Coast Guard vessel for refueling.
The reassignment of Rasch signals a setback to a once promising military career. Rasch joined the Navy in 1989 as an intelligence specialist and became an enlisted officer after graduating from the University of San Diego in 2003. The investigation into the incident has been under review for months, with lawmakers pressuring the Navy to hold somebody responsible for the embarrassment.