The Riverine Mysteries

Unanswered questions about how US sailors wound up in Iran’s hands – and how they got out

by , January 20, 2016

The events surrounding the interception of ten American sailors in two US riverine boats who somehow wandered into Iranian waters continues to baffle the curious. Not that the American media is to be included among those asking questions: aside from the outraged shrieks of the neoconservative outlets over the alleged “appeasement” of Iran and the so-called “humiliation” of the sailors, no one is asking the most pertinent question of all: how did they get there in the first place?

I raised the most obvious questions here: simultaneously, both Glenn Greenwald and Rachel Maddow made similar observations. Now the mystery grows deeper as the ever-changing Official Story – which is, currently, that a “navigational error” was made – collapses under its own weight. This story line was never all that convincing to begin with – after all, did both boats fall victim to the same “error”? Was this not a routine journey undertaken hundreds of times? Well, there’s always a first time, right? The GPS devices on both boats could have failed at the same time, although the odds are against it.

However, now we learn from the Iranians that the GPS devices on both boats were fully functional:

“[A] statement from Iran’s parliament cited Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps officials as saying that the U.S. sailors should have been aware of their location.

"’The coordinates recorded on the GPS devices taken from the 10 US marines (sic) confirmed their trespassing’ into waters off heavily-guarded Farsi island, the semi-official Fars news agency reported of the parliamentary statement.”

Moreover, the official statement from the US military contradicts the “navigational error” narrative:

“[I]nitial operational reports showed that while in transit from Kuwait to Bahrain the RCBs deviated from their planned course on their way to the refueling. The command investigation will determine what caused the change in course and why the RCBs entered into Iranian territorial waters in the vicinity of Farsi Island."

If the reason for the course deviation was “navigational error,” then why is any investigation necessary? And as it turns out, there was no error: the GPs devices on board were working just fine. To make matters worse for Washington, the Iranians returned everything on the ships with the exception of “two SIM cards that appear to have been removed from two handheld satellite phones," as the Pentagon statement avers. Those cards will tell the Iranians whom the crew members were communicating with on their sojourn, when those communications took place – and, perhaps, what the Americans’ real mission was all about.

Do we have to wait much longer for the other shoe to drop?

Another factor in all this is the peculiar timing: it just so happened that those sailors wandered into Iranian waters – a few miles from the highly sensitive military base on Farsi Island – on “Implementation Day,” the day Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal was officially confirmed and the lifting of sanctions was scheduled to take place. This incident couldn’t have been a better pretext for the US to cancel the lifting of sanctions if it had been designed to do so.

Which raises the question: was it so designed – and, if so, by whom?

The US military is supposed to be subordinate to the civilians in government, at least so they tell us, but very often in recent history government agencies have been known to go “rogue.” The Iran-Contra scandal was supposed to have been one such instance, although there is ample evidence that the White House knew all about it. The phony “intelligence” that landed on the desk of President George W. Bush and congressional leaders in the run up to the Iraq war shows every sign of having been concocted by parallel intelligence-gathering agencies set up in competition with the official ones. There is evidence that Hillary Clinton’s State Department  and the CIA ran a “rat line” funneling arms to Syrian rebels in defiance of the enunciated policy of the President: this is the real essence of Benghazi-gate, the one aspect of which the Republicans would rather not talk about (with the notable exception of Sen. Rand Paul).

Could it be that an element in the military was so opposed to the Iran nuke deal that they would engineer an incident in order to derail it? (I’m asking for a friend….)

Yet we all lived happily ever after, in spite of this last minute glitch. The sailors were released. And not only that, but reportedly Secretary of State John Kerry told the Iranians that they might as well utilize this speed bump on the road to détente to their mutual advantage, and so another deal was made: US citizens held in Iran were let go while Iranians imprisoned in American jails for violating sanctions were released, and extradition orders were dropped against a number of others.

But wait: not all the Iranians imprisoned in Iran came back to the US. No, I’m not talking about Robert Levinson, a mysterious figure who disappeared in Iran years ago and may or may not have been working for the CIA. As the New York Times reports, while the euphoria over the prisoner swap was reaching a crescendo,

”At the same time, a mystery deepened over one of the freed American prisoners, who apparently chose to remain in Iran.

“Under the deal announced on Saturday and completed on Sunday, the Iranians released four dual-national Americans of Iranian descent, some held for years, and permitted a fifth American imprisoned in December – whose arrest had not been publicly disclosed before – to leave.”

According to the Times, “It seemed that nobody in Iran knew” Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari “had been arrested, and nobody seemed to know any more about him. When the Swiss diplomats who had arranged for the departure of the other three Americans offered him a seat on their plane, they said, Mr. Khosravi-Roodsari opted to stay.”

Little information has been released about Khosravi-Roodsari by Washington, and none by Tehran. The initial announcement from the semi-official Fars News Agency did not even mention Khosravi-Roodsari.  The Wall Street Journal dutifully conveyed the State Department’s uncharacteristically laconic remarks:

“A State Department official said Mr. Khosravi-Roodsari was detained within the past year and the US learned of his detention from Iranian authorities. ‘He is a US citizen who was detained in Iran, and we were able to get him released,’ the official said. ‘We have nothing further to add.’”

The Huffington Post says the Obama administration is refusing to provide any information about this unknown prisoner, citing “privacy laws,” although we are told that he is a “businessman.” They also report that phones connected to someone with the same name have been disconnected, and that he appears to have no online presence. The New Yorker adds another unrevealing piece to the puzzle:

“The United States was not even aware that he had been detained until it received a diplomatic note about him from the Iranians during the negotiations. He was detained sometime in the past year, US officials said.”

It seems highly unlikely the US was unaware that one of its citizens was being detained. What does seem almost certain, however, is that the less we know about Khosravi-Roodsari the happier both Washington and Tehran are. Now there’s a mystery wrapped inside a very tantalizing enigma – one you can be sure our “mainstream” media is supremely uninterested in pursuing.

Another surprise was the release of Matthew Trevithick, 29, yet another prisoner no one (except his parents and our government) knew was behind bars in Iran. His resume is quite impressive: an intern at the Wilson Center, a stint in Kurdistan at the American University in Sulaymaniyah, four years at the American University in Kabul, later co-founder of the Syria Research and Evaluation Organization (SREO) with headquarters in Turkey. SREO, which the State Department calls “a valuable partner,” appears to be involved in transporting Syrian refugees into Europe. They also appear to be part of the joint US-Islamist effort to overthrow Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad: a poster distributed by SREO reads “ISIS and Assad are one and the same” – a revelation the Christian and Alawite citizens of Syria would no doubt dispute.

Like US intelligence operations since the beginning of the cold war, aside from its “humanitarian” façade, SREO has its tentacles into American cultural organizations, in this case the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, a gaggle of Washington-based literary do-gooders and thinly disguised spooks with literary pretensions. Trevithick co-authored the autobiography  of the Afghan puppet government’s first Minister of Education, which was graced with an introduction by US ambassador Ryan Crocker.

What was Trevithick doing in Iran? He was there ostensibly to study Dari – President Obama described him as a “student” – but he apparently already knew Dari, and it looks like the Iranians figured he was studying something else.

It’s all so transparent: why on earth Trevithick’s handlers sent him to Iran in the first place is yet another layer of the mystery surrounding the prisoner swap. Between the sailors who couldn’t sail straight and the spooks who couldn’t spy straight, one has to wonder how the Empire has managed to stay afloat as long as it has.

Just as those freed Iranians were working to procure sanctioned products for Tehran, so the American prisoners in Iran were no doubt engaged in intelligence-gathering on behalf of Washington – although Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian’s “crime” appears to have been writing letter to President Obama, seized on by Iranian hard-liners (as eager as our neocons to spike the nuke deal) as evidence that he was collecting information and handing it to “hostile governments.”

The “prisoner swap” was in reality a spy exchange, as anyone with a lick of sense would have to conclude. Yet the US media won’t breathe the word “spy” in connection with anything having to do with our activities overseas: in this, like Mr. Trevithick’s SREO, they can be considered “a valuable partner” by our State Department.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.

I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).

You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.

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