Navy commodore to be relieved of command over Iran’s capture of his sailors

The commodore in charge of the two U.S. Navy boats that strayed into Iranian waters leading to the capture of his 10 sailors for 16 hours in January will be relieved of command likely putting an end to his career, Fox News has learned.

Capt. Kyle Moses, commodore of Commander Task Force (CTF) 56 was responsible for the two riverine boats and Kuwait-based crew. The Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson, is set to release a long-awaited report on June 30th about the events surrounding the January incident now that the investigation is complete.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces captured the two high-speed patrol boats near Farsi Island, a well-known Iranian base, hours after the boats left Kuwait on January 12 with the intended purpose of sailing to Bahrain. Five sailors were aboard each boat.

The Navy crew was inexperienced and running late to make a rendezvous at a refueling point in the Persian Gulf when the capture took place, according to officials.

The detention of the American crew came the same day as President Obama’s State of the Union address and came at a sensitive time for the administration days before formally implementing the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers led by the United States.  

Days after the incident, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the Navy patrol boats had “misnavigated” into Iranian territorial waters. The second in command of the riverine squadron, Cmdr. Eric Rasch, was fired from his job last month.

Multiple defense officials tell Fox News a “multitude of errors” led to the capture of the U.S. Navy crew.

First, there was no navigation brief, a major violation of Navy protocol. When any Navy ship gets underway, even for something as minor as shirting berths from one pier to another, it is standard for a Navy crew to conduct a navigation brief discussing issues such as hazards to navigation or, in this case, an Iranian base near the planned course.

Second, the chain of command was not well defined on the two boats. While a young lieutenant was the highest-ranking individual on either of the two 50-foot boats, when the order was given to evade the Iranian forces, the helmsman refused the order.

Third, defense officials tell Fox News the Navy had become too complacent with the its treatment by Iranian forces in the months leading up to the January capture.

“The story here is these guys had gotten so used to Iranians doing stupid s—, having weapons pointed at them all the time, they didn’t know they were being captured until the Iranians boarded their boats,” one defense official said describing the lack of situational awareness by the Navy crew. “They messed up pretty bad.”

It was not immediately clear whether Richardson would announce punishments during the release of his report or a short time later. Other sailors aboard the two ships likely face disciplinary action as well, but Navy officials have refused to disclose the number.

The detention of the U.S. sailors created an uproar on Capitol Hill as Iran released a videotaped apology from the Navy lieutenant. Many in the military questioned whether the Code of Conduct, which forbids any captured American troops from making such statements, was violated. Under terms of the Code, American service members are required to give only a name, rank, service number and date of birth to captors.

Other video clips showing some of the 10 sailors crying sparked additional international outrage. Secretary of State John Kerry had thanked the Iranians for their treatment of the Navy sailors before the video showing the apology and crying was released.

Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei awarded medals to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard crew who detained the American sailors. In February, a reenactment of the sailors’ capture was displayed during parades around Iran celebrating the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

On the same day the Navy sailors were taken captive, Iran flew a drone over the USS Harry S Truman in the Persian Gulf. And, when the aircraft carrier sailed past the Strait of Hormuz in late December, a group of Iranian missile boats fired unguided rockets only 1,500 yards away, in a move the Navy called “highly provocative.”

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews

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