Joe Sestak Defends Iranian Navy Capture of U.S. Sailors

Joe Sestak
Joe Sestak / AP
January 27, 2016

Democratic Senate hopeful Joe Sestak defended the Iranian Navy's decision to board an American vessel and capture 10 U.S. Navy sailors, saying that the United States would have done the same thing or moreif the situation were reversed.

Speaking at the Pennsylvania Press Club earlier this week, the retired Navy Admiral said that he dealt with similar situations during his time as a naval commander.

Sestak said that he would have boarded the craft himself with his men pointing guns at it's crew while they looked for contraband, according to video of the response posted first by the Weekly Standard.

"Were an Iranian warship, like our riverine craft, went into our waters, I wouldn't let my men or women board that vessel [sic], and we would board it, because they're in our territory," said Sestak when asked whether Iran's actions were consistent with the Geneva Convention.

"What mischief are they up to? I would have the crew go to the end of the boat and hold their hands up," said Sestak. "I actually did it. I walked in the shoes of my sailors every day out there. I would go out with them on that same riverine craft, and I scaled 40-, 50-foot rope ladders to go up the hull of a merchant ship, with a helicopter with a gun down facing the merchant men and women on that, who we hustled to the back, so we would be safe climbing up, and then with guns, they held it up as we looked for contraband on this neutral merchant ship that might be going into Iraq or Iran."

Sestak went further, saying that the Iranians actually showed some restraint by not putting bullets in the water like he might have done.

"Often [a boat] would come towards me because they're cigarette smuggling boats from UAE to Oman. And we would actually take a helicopter and start to wash them away and even if necessary, put bullets in the water," said Sestak.

Sestak has been a staunch defender of the nuclear deal the administration struck with Iran, and credited the line of communication created during negotiations for getting the U.S. sailors released.

"I would argue that if we had not done the communications with Iran to stop their nuclear weapons program, we could not have picked up a hotline," said Sestak.

If we didn't have the ability to pick up a "hotline" to Iran, it could have been worse.

"Remember this, when the British sailors were captured in 2007, 13 of them, it took 15 days before they were released," said Sestak. "We picked up the phone and resolved it."

Sestak hopes to get a rematch in November with incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who defeated him in an election for the same seat in 2010.

Toomey has argued that the nuclear deal with Iran is disastrous foreign policy and that the incident with the U.S. sailors sent a "message that Iran can act with impunity."

"That was designed to humiliate the United States and send a message that Iran can act with impunity, and the United States will do nothing about it," said Toomey. "Any clear-minded assessment would be that this is even worse than it looks."

Secretary of State John Kerry said that the way the U.S. sailors were treated made him "angry."