It has been suggested that commanders became complacent without any serious incidents during the 66 searches in three weeks before the Cornwall's final search.Hat tip to NOSI.
But with the American capture of five Iranians allegedly helping the insurgency in Iraq a few weeks earlier, the Navy operating in the Gulf should have been "significantly more wary" of Iran, a Navy source said.
Officers have also complained that they were never passed intelligence on what the possible Iranian navy plans were.
"This was either because it was deemed that we did not have enough security clearance or that they simply did not have the any intelligence in the first place," a Navy source said.
There was criticism, too, that the Cornwall's boats were sent close to the Iranian border without enough firepower or support. American boarding parties usually have four patrol boats with at least two standing off to provide covering fire.
UPDATE: More here:
Ayers said many questions must be answered in the expected public inquiries into the fiasco. The most important, he said, is why the lightly armed sailors were allowed to operate in disputed waters near the border between Iran and Iraq without protective sea or air cover.
He questioned why a British helicopter that was hovering over the sailors when they began an inspection of a ship suspected of car smuggling left before the operation ended, leaving the 14 men and one woman vulnerable to attack.
In addition, he said, the HMS Cornwall, the mother ship for the patrol boat, could not get close enough to the area to keep the sailors in sight because the water was too shallow, but the commanding officer had other rapid patrol boats he could have deployed to the scene to make the operation more secure.
Finally, Ayers suggested that Britain's rules of engagement may have been too weak. "If the rules of engagement you're operating under allow you to be captured without a fight, maybe they need to be changed."