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Navy Fires Commander Eric Rasch Over Iran’s Detention of Sailors

FROM JAN. 13: Iran’s Release of 10 U.S. Sailors Heads off International Crisis 2:32

The Navy has fired the commander of the 10 American sailors who entered Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf and were captured and held by Iran for about 15 hours.

In a statement Thursday, the Navy said it had lost confidence in Cmdr. Eric Rasch, who was the executive officer of the squadron that included the 10 sailors at the time of the January incident. He was responsible for the training and readiness of the more than 400 sailors in the unit.

A Navy official said Rasch failed to provide effective leadership, leading to a lack of oversight, complacency and failure to maintain standards in the unit. The official was not authorized to discuss the details publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Rasch has been relieved of his command duties and reassigned, the Navy said.

Although this is the first firing by the Navy regarding the incident, several other sailors received administrative reprimands. The investigation is expected to be finished by the end of the month, and others are likely to be disciplined.

Rasch was promoted to commander of the unit in April — after the Iran incident occurred, but before the preliminary investigation was done.

The sailors, nine men and one woman, were detained after their boat drifted into Iranian waters off Farsi Island, an outpost in the middle of the Persian Gulf that has been used as a base for Revolutionary Guard speedboats since the 1980s.

The sailors were on two small armed vessels, known as riverine command boats, on a 300-mile journey from Kuwait to Bahrain, where the Navy's 5th Fleet is located. The incident raised tensions between the U.S. and Iran because of images Iran published of the soldiers kneeling with their hands on their heads.

It caused political uproar at home, too, coming on the day of President Barack Obama's final State of the Union address and months after the signing of a deal with Iran to curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from financial penalties.