"The United States did as much as we could do legally," Mullen told a
briefing on Jan. 27.
"There are authorities, limitations in complying with
this particular UN resolution, and we basically went right up to the edge of
that and we couldn't do anything else. And we think those weapons are headed
to Syria, which is obviously not a great outcome ...shipping weapons to
Syria that we think, quite frankly, are going to end up in Gaza."
CTF 151 is a multinational force that seeks to deter pirates from
Somalia. The San Antonio employs Marine teams in rigid-hull inflatable boats
to board suspicious ships.
"San Antonio has been trained to stop and search ships and was mostly
used for counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian
Ocean and Red Sea," an official said. "Its authority is very wide."
San Antonio contains a nine-member sniper team that could land from
helicopters. The U.S. Navy said scout snipers use the Mk-11, a 7.62 sniper
rifle, as well as a 50-caliber M107 special application scoped rifle.
"The scout snipers' role while attached to CTF-151 is to supply either
aerial support from a scout sniper position inside the helicopter or, if
need be, we can provide support from the ship to provide overwatch for the
visit, board, search and seizure [VBSS] team as they go ahead and take out a
vessel," Gunnery Sgt. Jeffery Benkie said.
On Jan. 26, about a week after the Iranian ship was released, the U.S.
Navy provided details of San Antonio's mission. The navy said the San
Antonio could identify the onboard cargo of a suspicious ship from standoff
range. Marine snipers, assigned to cover interception teams, were said to
have the ability to hit a target from a kilometer away.
"We have the ability to stand off of a target, visually see what is on
the target and report that information to the VBSS teams so they
understand — before they're boarding — the number of personnel, if there
are any weapons on board, if there are any type of foulings on the deck, if
their hook point is obtainable, and, basically, give them a warm and fuzzy
feeling that they're not out alone out here, that they have snipers watching
over them 100 percent of the time," Benkie said.