The U.S. Navy has rebuked him and effectively ended his once-promising career in the military. But Lt. David Nartker makes no apologies for his actions when two boats under his command strayed into Iranian waters and ended up captured by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

In an exclusive interview with Foreign Policy, Nartker defended his role in the Jan. 12 incident in the Persian Gulf, arguing that he safeguarded the lives of his crew and averted a potential war with Iran over a navigational error.

Speaking publicly for the first time about the case, Nartker last week offered an alternative narrative to the one painted by the U.S. Navy, which has reprimanded him for “dereliction of duty.” He described a harrowing confrontation near Farsi Island as two Iranian vessels equipped with machine guns encircled his riverine boats. He said he had only seconds to decide whether to order his crew to open fire or to look for a way out of the showdown.

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