Kerry thanks Iran for care of US sailors

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Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryFive things Clinton needs to do to win the California primary An all-female ticket? Not in 2016 GOP senator calls for China to crack down on illegal opioid MORE thanked leaders in Iran on Wednesday for what he called a “quick and appropriate response” to return 10 American sailors back to the United States.

“These are always situations which … have an ability, if not properly guided, to get out of control,” Kerry said in a speech on Wednesday morning at the National Defense University.

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"I could not be and I know the president could not be prouder of our men and women in uniform," he added. "I also want to thank the Iranian authorities for their cooperation and quick response."

The sailors appear to have been “well taken care of,” Kerry insisted, adding that Iran gave them blankets and food as they were forced to wait overnight on a small island in the Persian Gulf.

The seizure of the 10 Americans on two boats prompted accusations from the administration’s critics that Iran is feeling emboldened by the nuclear deal. The American boats appear to have drifted off course, into Iranian waters.

But the Obama administration has been quick on Wednesday morning to insist that the rapid turnaround to return the Americans was a fruit of its labor to engage Iran. When a similar situation occurred in 2007, British sailors were held by Iran for roughly two weeks.

“I think we can all imagine how a similar situation might have played out three or four years ago,” Kerry said on Wednesday.

“In fact it is clear that today this kind of issue was able to be peacefully resolved and officially resolved, and that is a testament to the critical role that diplomacy plays in keeping our country safe, secure and strong.”

The Tuesday evening dispute came on the eve of the implementation of the international accord to lift sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors in exchange for new limits on its ability to build a nuclear weapon.

The Obama administration has appeared to use the nuclear pact as a window for broader engagement with Iran, from which the U.S. has been formally cut off for decades.

Ultimate enactment of the agreement, which was reached last summer, will come “very soon,” Kerry said on Wednesday, “likely within the next coming days somewhere.”

“When that happens, we are convinced it will make us and our partners around the world more safe and secure.”

Already, Iran has removed the core of its heavy water reactor at Arak, Kerry said he was told by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in one of the final steps of implementing the deal.

“Within the next hours it will be filled with concrete and destroyed,” Kerry promised. 

This story was updated at 11:49 p.m.