Sen. Tom CottonTom CottonArk., Texas senators put cheese dip vs. queso to the test Overnight Defense: Debate over Mattis heats up | White House releases military force rules Senate GOP to Obama: Stop issuing new rules MORE (R-Ark.) on Wednesday blasted the administration for thanking Iran for returning 10 American sailors it detained overnight, saying the White House should first seek answers on why it happened.
Secretary of State John Kerry said in a speech Wednesday morning after the sailors were released, "I want to thank the Iranian authorities for their cooperation and quick response."
Cotton, who has been a fierce critic of the administration's Iran policy, said those statements were "disappointing, but not surprising."
"Before we thank the Iranian naval forces and attempt to defend and normalize their behavior, as Vice President Biden and Secretaries Kerry and Carter appear inclined to do, we should demand answers to certain questions about their behavior," he said.
Cotton said those questions include where the sailors were intercepted, why they were detained instead of escorted into international waters, whether sensitive equipment was compromised, and why the sailors were not permitted to contact their headquarters for the 16 hours they were held.
News that Iran had detained the sailors as they were passing from Kuwait to Bahrain in the Persian Gulf came just hours before the president delivered his final State of the Union address on Tuesday evening.
Despite Republican pressure to address the situation in his speech, the president did not mention the subject at all and only briefly touched on the Iran nuclear deal that is expected to be implemented in the coming days.
It is not clear how the boats drifted into Iranian waters, but officials have said one boat might have had a technical issue.
Cotton also said the discrepancy between Iranian and U.S. accounts should be addressed.
“I'm also curious why American officials would characterize Iran as assisting a distressed vessel when Iran has characterized the incident as U.S. ships trespassing into its waters and ‘snooping,' " he said.
"Iran does not deserve the benefit of the doubt. Until we have answers to these questions, we should not be rationalizing Iran’s behavior in an incident that was highly abnormal," he added.
"Our sailors never should have been detained in the first place, and blithely accepting such action will only embolden the [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps] and the ayatollahs who wish to do harm to Americans and our allies in the Arabian Gulf."