Updated 1:45 p.m.
Just days after Iran threatened the U.S. Navy and bloviated about closing off the Strait of Hormuz, the Navy saved 13 Iranian commercial sailors from pirates. Anytime you want to express your gratitude, Tehran, the Pentagon will take your call.
The incident occurred Thursday in the northern Arabian Sea, the Navy said, after the aircraft carrier U.S.S. John C. Stennis’ battle group left the strait. The Stennis received a distress call from a ship warning of a pirate assault.
That led the U.S.S. Kidd, a destroyer in the battle group, to the al-Molai, an Iranian-flagged fishing vessel that the pirates had hijacked over a month ago and used as a mothership. A boarding team from the Kidd apparently faced little resistance from the pirates, whose nationalities the Navy has yet to verify, although Somali pirates have clashed with Iranians before. The Kidd team freed the Iranian hostages and took 15 pirates back to the Stennis, where they’re currently detained.
According to Josh Shminsky, a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent aboard the Kidd, the Iranian captain “expressed his sincere gratitude that we came to assist them. He was afraid that without our help, they could have been there for months,” Shminsky said in a press release. The Iranian navy’s much-hyped flying spy boats must have been preoccupied or something.
All of which is rather ironic. The Stennis group’s rescue mission came right after the Iranian navy held a grandiose 10-day exercise in the strait — while the group sailed through it — and blustered that it would close the waterway to Gulf oil tankers in response to new sanctions. And it even occurred on the same day that Iran’s defense minister announced his intention to hold the Islamic Republic’s “greatest naval wargames” as a new bluster.
Even if the al-Molai’s captain is grateful to the U.S., so far, the Pentagon has received no acknowledgement from the Iranian government about the rescue. “We don’t know what the Iranians know about this incident,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, a Navy captain, told reporters Friday morning.
Update, 1:45 p.m.: Ironies compound. The Kidd’s commanding officer is a woman — Cmdr. Jennifer Ellinger.
– with Adam Rawnsley
Photo: U.S. Navy