Just days after Iranian and American military officials traded warnings over a U.S. Navy vessel's departure from the Persian Gulf, the United States Navy has rescued 15 Iranian fishermen and their fishing dhow from Somali pirates in the north Arabian sea, according to the Pentagon.
And in a side irony that punctuates the rare instance of Iranian-American co-operation, the rescue operation was carried out by a ship belonging to the very U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike group that Iranian army officials had earlier boasted of evicting from Gulf waters.
Ironically, Iran had threatened just last week to close the route in possible retaliation to new U.S. and European economic sanctions, a tactic the U.S. already has said it would not tolerate.
"A boarding team from the guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd, which is part of the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, detained 15 suspected pirates aboard the fishing dhow, the Al Molai," according to a statement Friday from the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs Office. "The pirates didn't resist and surrendered quickly in the rescue operation, which occurred on Thursday."
The Iranian fishermen "were held hostage, with limited rations, and we believe were forced against their will to assist the pirates with other piracy operations," Josh Schminky, a Navy Criminal Investigative Service agent aboard the Kidd, explained in the Navy statement.
The Navy has posted an unclassified video of the rescue operation on the internet ---seemingly eager to play up the good turn the American Navy has done for the Iranian fishermen.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also called the commander of the USS John C. Stennis' Carrier Strike Group, Rear Adm. Craig Fuller, to congratulate him on the "well executed" rescue operation, Pentagon spokesman George Little said Friday.
'When we get a distress signal, we're going to respond," Secretary Panetta said. "'That's the nature of what our country is all about."
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