Congressman Randy Forbes (R. Va) told the Washington Free Beacon in an interview on Monday that the Obama Administration is keeping details regarding the treatment of ten captured US sailors by the Islamic Republic of Iran under wraps, for fear that it will undermine improving relations between Washington and Tehran.
It comes days after the sailors’ commanding officer was fired by the US Navy over the incident. 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.
At the time, the Pentagon blamed the incident entirely on a mechanical malfunction, though this was met with doubt after the boats were proven operational following the release of the sailors. Investigation into the incident has revealed a combination of mechanical issues, communication failures, and a lack of proper navigational training contributed to the mishap.
Forbes, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, claims that the details of the detention will shock Americans, but laments that the information will not be released to the public for a year or longer, as, he claims, the Obama Administration is managing the political fallout expected when the details become public.
The incident in Iranian territorial waters opened a major diplomatic row between Washington and Tehran at the precise moment the two countries were in the late stages of negotiating the historic Iran nuclear deal. The situation nearly devastated the agreement in the final hour when the Iranian government released a video showing one US sailor apologizing.
The nuclear deal has become the weapon of choice for conservative military hawks and the Israeli lobby, against what they consider to be Obama’s foreign policy of capitulation. Last year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the Obama Administration on the floor of the US Congress, in an unprecedented affront to a US President.
Release of inflammatory information regarding the treatment of the American sailors may give rise to renewed calls to rescind or renegotiate the embattled nuclear deal.
"I think that when the details actually come out, most Americans are going to be taken aback by the entire incident, both how Iran handled it and how we handled it," said the Congressman. "I think that’s going to be huge cause for concern for most Americans. That’s why I’ve encouraged members of Congress to get that briefing so they do know exactly what did take place."
The incident, including the video of US sailors openly weeping and apologizing to the Iranians at gunpoint, may have involved treatment blatantly in violation of international law, suggested the Congressman. Forbes asserted that Secretary of State John Kerry’s gratitude to Iran for releasing the captured Navy personnel "was a slap in the sailors’ face."
Notably, Forbes made his unsubstantiated claims to a conservative media outlet, directly after issuing a new bill calling for increasing sanctions on Tehran.
The move, along with renewed concern over the possibility of ill-treatment of US sailors, potentially places Congressional Democrats in the no-win situation of either opposing the Obama Administration, or being blasted for taking a position against US troops right before the November elections.
Some ask whether this an election-season ploy or a call for truth and accountability. The answer rests in the hands of President Obama, who again must choose to release information that may be adverse to the US strategic interest or turn a blind eye toward his campaign promise of increased government transparency.