Senator McCain threatens to subpoena US sailors held by Iran

Republican senator John McCain says he will subpoena ten US sailors to testify about their brief detention by Iran if Obama administration does not share findings of investigation into incident until end of February

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

US Senator John McCain gestures during his speech at the Security Conference in Munich, Germany on Feb. 14, 2016.

United States Republican Senator John McCain announced on Sunday that he will subpoena 10 US sailors who were detained by Iran on Jan. 12 to testify about their brief detention if Obama administration does not provide the findings of an investigation into the incident until the end of February.

"It's an option that I do not want to exercise," McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters as he was returning to the US from an international security conference in Germany.

On Jan. 12, Iran’s  Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps took 10 American sailors into custody after their boats strayed into Iranian waters while sailing near Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf.

This picture released by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Jan. 13, 2016, shows detained American Navy sailors' boats in custody of the guards in the Persian Gulf Iran. (AP)

The Pentagon said the US team had entered Iranian waters by mistake and the Iranian army accepted the explanation in a statement saying “We have concluded that passage of Americans in our territorial waters was not a hostile passage or for espionage or similar acts,”

“They were positioned in that area due to the failure of their navigation systems and they were not aware of being close to Farsi Island,” added the statement which was read aloud on Iranian state TV.

The 10 Americans including one woman were released after US Secretary of State John Kerry intervened with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif averting a diplomatic crisis just days before the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal and the lifting of international sanctions.

The Obama administration has said the sailors' release showed the power of diplomacy and the promise of its new engagement with Iran.

This picture released by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Jan. 13, 2016, shows detained American Navy sailors in an undisclosed location in Iran. (AP)

Republicans have been critical of the deal with Iran, and some say the detainment of the sailors showed how little regard Iran had for the US.

McCain said he had been told the sailors were still being debriefed, but added that he assumed that administration members were "dragging their feet" in completing an investigation into the incident, which he accused Iran of exploiting for propaganda purposes.

"I guarantee you, if they don't have a debrief by the first of March like they said, we'll have a hearing and we'll subpoena. We're not going to wait any longer," McCain said.

"We will subpoena the individuals if we have to."

Recently, a US official stated that the US Navy had briefed McCain several times about the incident, and will continue to do so as the investigation proceeded.

TRTWorld and agencies