Iran’s detention and treatment of 10 U.S. sailors earlier this year was inconsistent with international law, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Thursday.
Thursday’s remarks appear to be his strongest public statements against Iran’s behavior in January.
Carter previously said Iran’s actions angered him, but avoided labeling the incident a violation of international law.
“I was very, very angry at it,” Carter told reporters in January. “And I'm not going to give you the international law answer, but I can tell you, Americans wouldn't have done that.”
On Jan. 12, Iran detained the sailors for 16 hours after their two riverine boats strayed into Iranian waters.
Since the incident, Iran has been releasing propaganda, such as videos showing sailors kneeling with their hands behind their head, apologizing and crying. This week, Iran also claimed that it collected 13,000 pages worth of information from laptops and other devices during the detention.
Sen. John McCainJohn McCainMcCain: Leak of Trump dossier ‘totally wrong’ McCain proposes 0B defense budget for 2018 The Obama presidency that never was MORE (R-Ariz.), who has been critical of the administration’s handling of the incident, said he appreciated Carter’s comments.
But McCain also pressed Carter on whether he’s planning any specific action to respond to the incident.
“You’ve made it quite clear that you’re outraged and all that, but what specifically do you recommend to do in response to that?” asked McCain, chairman of the committee.
During the incident, Carter said, the Pentagon was prepared to protect the sailors. But he did not offer a recommendation for how to respond to Iran’s behavior since then.
“At the time of the incident, we prepared to protect our people,” he said. “Turns out they were released in time. We later had the opportunity to see them being filmed and the way they were, and it made it very clear that that’s not the kind of behavior we would want to engage in.”