Carter says ‘navigational error’ caused sailors to enter Iranian waters

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The 10 sailors detained by Iran were on two U.S. vessels that entered Iranian waters due to a “navigational error,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said on Jan. 14.

“They did not report this navigational error at the time. It may be that they were trying to sort it out at the time they encountered Iranian boats. … We don’t know that fully yet,” Carter said in an interview in Miami with Fusion network.

Screen shot from Iranian media report on detention of U.S. sailors.
Screen shot from Iranian media report on detention of U.S. sailors.

Asked to comment on the video released by Iranian media showing the American sailors kneeling aboard their boats with their hands on their heads, Carter said: “obviously I don’t like to see our people being detained by a foreign military.”

“We need to give these guys the opportunity to tell us what was really going on,” he added.

The sailors were released on Jan. 13, a day after Iran detained them. According to Iranian media, the sailors had entered Iranian waters “unintentionally” and were released after the U.S. ceded to Teheran’s demand and “apologized.”

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he was not aware of any discussions between Washington and Teheran about an American apology and insisted one “certainly” had not been given.

The 10 sailors were back with their American fleet on Jan. 15. Navy officials said they were undergoing what the military calls “reintegration,” a series of interviews and physical and mental health examinations to ease their return to duty.

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