Iran released 10 US sailors on Wednesday (Thursday NZ Time) after holding them overnight, bringing a swift end to an incident that had rattled nerves days ahead of the expected implementation of a landmark nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said it had freed the sailors after determining they had entered Iranian territorial waters by mistake. The sailors had been detained aboard two US Navy patrol boats in the Gulf on Tuesday (Wednesday NZT).
“Our technical investigations showed the two US Navy boats entered Iranian territorial waters inadvertently,” the IRGC said in a statement carried by state television. “They were released in international waters after they apologised,” it added.
Some may disagree, but the fact this incident was settled quickly is arguably due to the agreement over the Iranian nuclear programme.
In times past Iran could well have decided to keep the sailors for weeks or months, and even threaten to put them on trial.
But now it has an agreement with the US, it has an incentive not to behave in such a way which would see the agreement fall to pieces. And they would have realised that another hostage situation would make them pariahs again.
So while the agreement is far from perfect, it does have beneficial side effects in providing an incentive for Iran to behave better than in the past.