Somali Pirates Get Life, Holdout Jurors Reject Death

A federal jury in Virginia has rejected the Government's request for the death penalty in the case of the three remaining Somali pirates charged with killing Americans on their sailboat 40 miles off the coast of Somalia.

Under federal law, a sentence to death must be unanimous. In this case, one juror held out for life on one defendant, while two jurors felt life was appropriate for the other two.

Originally, there were 19 pirates on board when the shootings occurred. [More...]

In all, 19 men boarded the American yacht during the hijacking. Four of the hijackers died on board – including two who have also been identified in court records as those who shot at the Americans. One person was released by authorities because he is a juvenile. Eleven other men pleaded guilty to piracy and have been sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the case.

A 12th man who never boarded the Quest and was identified as the lead hostage negotiator was convicted of piracy Friday. He also faces a mandatory life sentence.

The verdict forms for the death penalty phase run 10 pages or more. They list the various potential aggravating and mitigating factors. In order to return a death verdict, the jury has to find the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating factors or there are no mitigating factors.

The Government argued there were several aggravating factors warranting a death sentence. One was that that the pirates endangered the U.S. military. The jury unanimously rejected this argument as to all three defendants. Another was that that the Americans were killed 'in an especially wanton and gratuitous manner.' The jury rejected the arguments as to two of the three defendants.

The jury found mitigating factors as to all three defendants. But they were unanimous on only a few of them, and apparently for at least 10 of the jurors, the mitigating factors did not outweigh the aggravating factors. (I've uploaded the mitigating factors portion of the three verdicts: Salad, Beyle, and Abrar.)

One factor that several jurors thought applied to all three defendants was that others who were equally if not more culpable did not get death sentences.

For Salad:

26. There are other, equally culpable persons involved in the Quest incident, who will not be sentenced to death.

Number of jurors who so find: 4

For Beyle:

4. Another defendant or co-defendant, equally culpable in the crime, will not be punished by death.

Number of jurors who so find: 4

For Abrar:

11. Other defendants with greater authority in the piracy conspiracy will not be punished by death.

Number of jurors who so find: 5

Note the difference in jurors finding this factor for Abrar:

2. There is evidence that at least one additional shooter directly participated in the murders of the victims, and neither he nor other persons equally culpable in the crime will be punished by death.

Number of jurors who so find: 2

Among those who got life sentences: The admitted Commander of the attacks who was a former Somali police officer. He said he didn't shoot the victims, and was on guard duty on the ship with an AK-47 when other pirates fired a grenade at a Navy ship. He was standing behind whoever launched the grenade and was blinded in one eye. His lawyer requested the judge to order the Bureau of Prisons to pay for a corneal transplant. The judge refused to order the BOP to provide the transplant but recommended he be designated to a medical facility.

What caused the lone holdout on Salad to find the mitigating factors outweighed the aggravating factors? If I had to guess, I'd say it either and/or both that other pirates involved in the shooting of the hostages got life and the harshness of a life sentence that will be served on the other side of the world away from anything familiar to him.

Had the Government not brought in the former co-defendants to testify, the jury probably would not have known the other participants got life sentences. Or that as a result of cooperating, they may get their life sentences reduced.

While the majority of jurors did not seem particularly moved by the the mitigating evidence about their rough lives in Somalia, or the harshness of serving a life sentence across the world from their homes, it seems the dissenting jurors felt differently, which in combination with the disparate prosecutorial charging, resulted in their refusal to compromise.

For example, as to Salad, for whom only 1 juror voted for life, according to the verdict form, in assessing the mitigating factor of the harshness of a life sentence:

Life in prison without the possibility of release is a harsh punishment, especially for a foreign national like Ahmed Muse Salad, who will never see his family or homeland again, and who after more than two years in American custody still speaks very little English.

Number of jurors who so find: 1

This was not a case without problems for the Government. After the incident, the New York Times reported that questions were being raised about how the Navy handled the incident. It is very unusual for pirates to kill hostages -- it's bad for business. Something went awry and had the Navy not interceded in the manner in which it did, some believe the deaths might have been avoided.

There were a lot of other pretrial hurdles for the Government in the case, but the Judge ruled in its favor on all of them.

The court ruled that Somalia's territorial waters only extend 12 miles instead of 200 miles as Somalia law states. Somalia signed a Law of the Sea treaty in 1989 agreeing to limit its territorial claims to 12 nautical miles. But the U.S. never ratified or signed the treaty. No matter, said the court. It's "customary international law." Where was the boat when seized by the pirates? 40 miles out. Had it been 28 miles closer to Somalia, the U.S. would not have had jurisdiction in the case.

From the court's order, available on PACER

In sum, although the Defendants provide ample evidence that Somalia has claimed a 200-mile territorial sea, they fail to demonstrate that Somalia possesses exclusive territorial sovereignty forty miles from its shore, where the alleged offenses occurred. In effect, the Defendants ask this court to hold that a forty-year-old Somali law--which was passed before that country ratified UNCLOS, and which contradicts a near unanimous international understanding about the size of territorial seas--precludes this court from exercising jurisdiction over offenses committed outside the twelve-mile territorial limit....."[t]here has been no controlling United States executive, judicial, or legislative authority that has ruled on what the United States views the territorial waters of Somalia to be."

The judge also rejected a motion to change venue:

Norfolk is home to the world's largest naval base and its ships regularly deploy to the coast of Africa to fight piracy. The Norfolk-based USS Enterprise was among the ships that responded to the 2011 hijacking of the yacht Quest, where all four Americans on board were shot and killed off the coast of Somalia.

The defense had argued:

"Simply put, the community in Norfolk has a very personal stake in piracy issues that prejudices the defendants. These prejudices will become that much more exaggerated in the event that defense counsel contends that the deaths occurred in this case partly because the Navy failed to follow proper protocol," their court filing states.

...{D]efense attorneys have written that the Navy's aggressive actions helped lead to the shootings. After negotiations between the Navy and the pirates broke down, the destroyer USS Sterett began maneuvering between the Quest and the Somali coast. The pirates then fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the warship, and soon after, shots were fired on board the Quest, fatally wounding the Americans. "There would be manifest prejudice if this trial is permitted to proceed in Norfolk," defense attorneys wrote.

Another issue: Salad's IQ was under 70. The judge still found him eligible for the death penalty.

And yet another: One of the earlier defendants alleged he was beaten by the Navy and forced to talk.

I'm glad there were a few holdout jurors on all three defendants, and one on Muse Salad. I suspect one reason is Margie Fargo, a renowned death penalty jury selection expert who was retained by the Federal Defenders representing Muse. Jury selection in death penalty cases is all about finding jurors who will vote life. Here's a list of federal and state cases she and her associate, Brian Seltzer have worked on. Among them: Zacarias Moussaoui.

I'm not pleased that we will $30,000 a year to incarcerate 14 men for life, most of whom are in their 20's. If they live to age 65 to 70, that's around $15 to $21 million. The cost of prosecuting and defending the cases are at least another few million. (I've been saying this since 2009. More here.)

One thing you don't often see mentioned is that the American boat owners, Scott and Jean Adams, had not been in the U.S. for six years, but traveling around the world in their sailboat. The Navy warned boat owners to avoid the area where their boat was seized by pirates due to the many pirate attacks, and they proceeded anyway, even leaving a group of boats they had been traveling with to proceed on their own. They were aware of the danger. They weren't just naive vacationers. While they certainly did not deserve to die, I don't think it's a case that warranted U.S. intervention and $20 plus million to bring them to justice here, when they could have been tried and punished in Somalia.

The LA Times reported the Adams "had spent seven years sailing the globe, distributing Bibles at many of their stops." More on the Adams' bible mission in their own words here and here. The Adams, for whatever reason, disregarded the known risk and warnings.

Given the systemic problems in Somalia and other areas where piracy flourishes, I think our $21 million could have be better spent addressing "the political and socioeconomic root causes of piracy" instead of on criminal trials in the U.S. and prisons. Reports addressing the cause of piracy are here and here.

Piracy has dropped in Somalia, but its questionable whether U.S. prosecution and sentences are responsible. It's more likely the drop is due to the vast amounts being spent by private companies for armed guards on board the vessels. Deterrence and punishment, even the death penalty, are unlikely to dissuade an would-be pirate who is impoverished and living in a chaotic place like Somalia. The best way to quash piracy off Somalia is to invest in stability onshore.

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    The Law of the Sea (none / 0) (#1)
    by ragebot on Sun Aug 04, 2013 at 05:09:30 PM EST
    has as its first rule that humans are not at the top of the food chain.

    As someone who moved from my condo in Florida to a 42 foot sailboat in the Florida Keys it was a big shock to me to find out how different maritime law is compared to federal, state, and local statutes on land.

    Any boat over a certain size (read that to mean big enough to live on and sail across an ocean) is most likely documented by the USCG.  This means the boat is like US territory and attacking it is like attacking the US.  On the downside any USCG (and to some extent state or local govt) boat can board and search a USCG documented boat on demand.

    Historically when pirates were captured there was no trial they were simply hung from the starboard yardarm.  The result was for quite some time pirates became quite rare.  Sad to say this is no longer the case as many countries have quite strict limitations with harsh punishment for private boats carrying small arms.

    Bottom line is once your boat gets out of sight of land you are under the law of the seas.  Many boaters I know follow the rule of killing any one who boards their boat without permission.

    Interesting..... (5.00 / 4) (#2)
    by ruffian on Sun Aug 04, 2013 at 07:28:17 PM EST
    So it was the hanging from the starboard yardarm that resulted in the rarity of piracy, not anything to do with governments combatting piracy with their navies, various shifts in economies, or myriad other things. Amazing that there was ever piracy at all if that method was so effective.

    Pirates were (none / 0) (#3)
    by ragebot on Sun Aug 04, 2013 at 10:24:16 PM EST
    most often captured by navies who would hang them from the starboard yardarm.

    Of course it was not as simple as that.  There was not always a clear line between pirates, privateers, and navy ships.  Probably the most important factor in eliminating pirates was governments stopping issuing letters to pirates/privateers granting permission to attack and capture ships of enemy nations.  At that point the pirates were forced to hold up in a few ports and it became easy for navies to go to those ports and basically bribe the pirates to join the navy.

    If a pirate was captured and tried it was a common practice to hang them at the entrance to the port and leave the body there to rot.  The theory was this would dissuade folks from taking up a career as a pirate.


    Piracy was very profitable for the English... (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by gbrbsb on Mon Aug 05, 2013 at 08:44:14 AM EST
    the most renowned of our pirates Sir Francis Drake, a lauded hero for Elizabethan England, a scourge for Spain where they placed a bounty on his head. The UK, France and so many other countries, groups and areas, including the US, profited greatly from piracy both in power and monetarily from the 16th to the 19thC at least.

    Whatever, I don't see how in the West we can fairly or honestly judge the Somali pirates, much as I obviously don't condone what they do either. We live in different worlds and are immersed in completely different fights for "survival". It's like blaming the native poachers hunting elephants or tigers to extinction so as to be able to feed their kids, with those in our wealthy countries buying ivory trinkets, elephant feet wastepaper baskets, and Tiger skins made into luxury rugs and coats. JMO.


    When England controlled the high seas (none / 0) (#15)
    by Payaso on Mon Aug 05, 2013 at 05:01:52 PM EST
    they had a policy of summary execution for pirates which they enforced vigorously.  Their definition of "pirate" was pretty vague however.  Basically when they got reports of piracy they would send a warship or two to hang a few locals.

    Great analogy: (none / 0) (#17)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Aug 05, 2013 at 06:46:50 PM EST
    It's like blaming the native poachers hunting elephants or tigers to extinction so as to be able to feed their kids, with those in our wealthy countries buying ivory trinkets, elephant feet wastepaper baskets, and Tiger skins made into luxury rugs and coats.
    Except the natives in this instance hunted four human beings to extinction, not animals, and were hired by a Somali native who had spent over $100,000 on his piracy operation:
    The leader Farah, in Bayla, Puntland also spoke with Reuters over the telephone and said "I lost the money I invested and my comrades. No forgiveness for the Americans. Revenge. Our business will go on", adding that he had spent $110,000 on food, weapons and salaries for the highjacking
    the Chief negotiator for the pirates also reportedly "made a living"
    He was also the chief pirate negotiator for the Marida Marguerite, the German-owned vessel with a crew of 22 men held hostage off the Somalian coast from May to December 2010. For his work in successfully extracting ransom, he received about $30,000 to $50,000.

    No Offense, But... (none / 0) (#5)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Aug 05, 2013 at 10:32:45 AM EST
    ...I would imagine the pirates preferred the US criminal justice system, even if they were sentenced to death, they would be in a federal prison for at least a decade.

    Had they been turned over to Somalia, they would probably have been executed by now or serving long sentences is a 3rd world hell hole.

    I think this whole thing is BS, from protecting idiots who knowingly entered pirated waters, to flying 3rd world criminals half way around the world to be judged by middle class Americans, to having the highest incarceration rate in the world, to the never ending lust of the executive branch of locking up foreign criminals.

    But given the choice between a Somalian prison and a US Federal prison, I think one would have to search long and deep to find anyone that would choose Somalia.  These guys killed people, not some BS non-existent drugs crime, they were not going to be free anytime soon no matter where they were tried.

    For the record, while International waters start at 12 miles, the contiguous zone extends another 12.  It allows limited control over certain crimes, like smuggling, but can not prevent anyone from using those waters, like it can with the first 12.

    Then there is a 200 mile economic zone that covers natural resources, like drilling.  It allows the state to limited authority to ensure it's economic interests can be protected.

    I would love to hear how the US views the territorial water in the Gulf, I would imagine they are far closer to Somalia's than International Treaties.  Imagine an Iranian naval vessel trying to get into the Gulf.

    What is insane, is each state is has different territorial water boundaries, Louisiana is 3 and Texas is 9 miles.  This is a huge deal, because that boundary gives states control over environmental and economic policies.  Any oil rig located within state boundaries is subject to state sales tax.  There is a never ending feud over environmental issues, such as the length of fishing seasons.

    they were still americans (none / 0) (#8)
    by nyjets on Mon Aug 05, 2013 at 11:34:42 AM EST
    They were still Americans, even if they undertook 'risky' behavior.
    I would want my country to protect Americans throughout the world and if necessary punish the people who killed them. Especially when you consider the fact that Somalia has no system to punish criminals.

    If Only They Cared About... (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Aug 05, 2013 at 12:20:57 PM EST
    ...Americans on US soil as much.  I can guarantee the Fed will never ever spend that kind of cash on your or me if we end up dead, right here.

    This is about protecting commerce.

    They would have been punished in Somalia and probably executed long ago has the US handed them over.  And your last sentence is idiotic at best.

    Google Xeer.


    i was under the impression (none / 0) (#14)
    by nyjets on Mon Aug 05, 2013 at 12:49:33 PM EST

    I was under the impression that Somalia was mostly a lawless state. There is no organized system of government or any real courts. If I am wrong, I am sorry, my mistake. However, I got the impression that pirates from Somalia generally do not have to worry about being punished by Somalia governemnt.

    Also, I am assuming when you say feds you mean the federal government, generally the federal government would not be involved in murder investigation unless there is some reason for them to be involved. Generally, it is the state who handles murder investigation and prosecution (in general, I do understand there are exceptions.) Therefore, I would not expect the federal government to spend money on most murder investigations.


    Exactly My Point (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Aug 06, 2013 at 10:15:37 AM EST
    How many unsolved murders in the US ?

    But instead of helping the people where they actually have jurisdiction, they are spending obscene amounts policing International Waters 10,000 miles away.

    We have lost our way and it's because the government is the law enforcement arm of Corporate America.  And if Corporate America needs save passage in the waters off Somalia, they will get it.  

    My point, there are a lot of dangerous places on the planet and the Fed only cares if Corporate America cares, if there are goods and people to exploit.

    Which if fine, except of course they don't actually pay for their own security, we pay for it.  We subsidize the mechanism that ensures the US goods and it's labor force cannot remain competitive.  If they had to pay for their own security, their goods would not be nearly as cheap.


    What is your point (none / 0) (#20)
    by ragebot on Tue Aug 06, 2013 at 10:24:21 AM EST
    Are you suggesting the US Navy should start investigating murders at the local level.  There are real constitutional issues with the armed forces becoming involved inside the US.

    Are you suggesting the US Navy, or armed forces in general, start doing this.  As I posted earlier the US Marine Hymn contains the line "to the shores of Tripoli" referring to the Marines landing in present day Libya and eliminating the Barbary pirates.  This is a traditional role of the US Military.


    What I am Suggesting... (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Aug 06, 2013 at 01:41:21 PM EST
    ...is that the United State business has no business policing waters that are 10,000 from it's borders.

    What does Tripoli have to do with anything, christ that is probably the dumbest thing I have read this month, "Well they did it 200 years ago...".  Should we start burning witches and owning slaves too ?


    How about this, some wealthy Iranians hire a private boat to take them scuba diving off the Yucatan Peninsula.  A storm hits and the boat loses power and they drift for a couple days.  They are discovered by a group of drunken fisherman who rape the wife, murder the husband and brutally assault the crew, 80 miles off the coast of Texas.

    Do the Iranian and Mexican militaries/Navies have the right to enter the Gulf, capture the criminals, fly them to Iran and imprison US citizens for life over crimes that were committed 80 miles off the US coast ?

    And for the record, Tripoli declared war on the US long before the military was involved.  But that's a conflict/war, not two Americans who thought warnings about pirated waters didn't apply to them.  They willfully put themselves in danger in foreign lands/waters.

    My point here is we should not even be there, but even after we captured them, we should have allowed the Somalian government to prosecute them.  Because even if we don't like their system of justice, we have to respect it, if we expect others to respect ours.

    "Our way or the Highway" attitude is why we have enemies 10,000 miles away who are willing to die to kill people they never met, don't actually dislike, and might even befriend in a another place and time.  Our government is creating the enemies you and me fear because it believes it has jurisdiction throughout the entire world and some folks don't like that.  Then they charge us protection money to keep us safe from the very enemies they created.  Our government has enemies thought out the world, you or I don't.

    And this is all done in the name of commerce.


    economically, culturally, politically, etc., etc. It is "the boss" of our planet.

    There will always be those who dislike the boss - any boss, every boss - many merely because they think it's unfair that they're not the boss.

    Thinking that there is some way to significantly change such fundamental human nature is folly, imo.


    Yeah.... (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Aug 06, 2013 at 03:24:24 PM EST
    ...and as history has proven, bosses come and go, and usually at the point when they decide their military endeavors are far more important than their own citizens.

    Don't need to change human nature, stop the ridiculous funding and quit acting like there's nothing anyone can do.  Lots of other nations seem perfectly content with the happenings within their borders and letting the idiots fight over land/water on the other side of the planet.

    You don't have to beat someone to get them to do what you want, it might work, but in the end it does nothing but create a lot of ill will.


    I understand where you are coming from. (none / 0) (#30)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Aug 06, 2013 at 03:37:59 PM EST
    Wishful thinking, mostly, imo.

    oy (none / 0) (#21)
    by sj on Tue Aug 06, 2013 at 11:09:54 AM EST
    That's what you get from that?
    Are you suggesting the US Navy should start investigating murders at the local level.  
    That's not the only possible alternative, you know. How about they get their nose out of foreign police activity and keep it out of that business altogether.

    And by the way, a military action took place "on the shores of Tripoli", not a police action.


    if americans are involved (1.00 / 1) (#22)
    by nyjets on Tue Aug 06, 2013 at 11:21:31 AM EST
    If Americans are involved it is the governments business.

    @sj (none / 0) (#23)
    by ragebot on Tue Aug 06, 2013 at 11:24:16 AM EST
    Maybe you could help me get up to speed on what point you are trying to make.

    The Marines were in Tripoli to deal with the Barbary Pirates and the Navy/Marines were off the Horn of Africa to deal with Somali Pirates.  In both cases the pirates were demanding tribute and the US response was (according to some sources) 'millions for defense but not one penny for tribute'.  Some sources say the quotation goes back to the XYZ affair and was not from Thomas Jefferson, rather from Charles Coatesworth Pinckney.  While others claim the quotation should be attributed to Robert Goodloe Harper, a South Carolina Federalist and Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in response to the XYZ affair.

    The point being that going back to the 1790s the USA has taken the position of protecting its ships on the high seas with force rather than paying tribute.

    Are you claiming this position should be changed?


    They (the Navy) engaged in a military action (none / 0) (#24)
    by sj on Tue Aug 06, 2013 at 12:12:19 PM EST
    They didn't go off to find the criminal[s] behind the murder of two specific private citizens. They engaged in a military action. That is my point. I'm pretty sure that's what I originally said.

    You have a really annoying habit of taking a conversation sideways by "asking"

    Are you claiming...
    Are you suggesting...
    and making wild leaps to a conclusion. How about reading what is actually said and commenting on that, or else creating an original comment if you want to make a specific point.

    Objection (1.00 / 1) (#25)
    by ragebot on Tue Aug 06, 2013 at 01:27:47 PM EST
    non responsive

    Do you really think it is about protecting (none / 0) (#16)
    by gbrbsb on Mon Aug 05, 2013 at 06:17:23 PM EST
    Americans away from home and punishing people that harm them? Or could it be more to do with the disastrous consequences to the world's economies, including that of the US, that these pirates are causing due to the strategic importance for world trade of the geographical location where they operate?

    IDK, but my bets are on financial reasons being the main driver as I can't see the US mounting all this at such an immense cost for a few American tourists murdered overseas just because a judicial system is lacking or half cocked. Just not going to happen imo.


    When asked why he robbed banks (none / 0) (#18)
    by ragebot on Mon Aug 05, 2013 at 06:50:03 PM EST
    Willie Sutton said 'cuz that's where the money is'.

    Maybe the reason the US is catching pirates off the Horn of Africa is because that's where the pirates are.

    I get real time updates about pirate activity and while there is some activity in the South China Sea and sporadic activity in the Leeward Antilles by far the most active pirate activity is off Somalia.


    If replying to me, no offence whatsoever... (none / 0) (#9)
    by gbrbsb on Mon Aug 05, 2013 at 11:39:26 AM EST
    because I wasn't advocating they should face justice in any particular location, merely noting that it is difficult for us in our comfortable lives to judge those that are are trying to survive under a completely different ball game. I mean was Lena ("The good German") wrong to report 12 Jews to the Nazi's to face certain death in order to survive herself ?, was Sophie ("Sophie's Choice") wrong to give up her daughter in order to save her son? Who am I to judge something I can never understand except to  say: "But for the grace of God/fate/luck... "  

    On the other hand I am not convinced if I were in their position that I wouldn't take my chances to survive 10 years in a jail with my own people, speaking my own language, near my family and friends even if I only saw them once a year, rather than spend 40 years or more until I die thousands of miles away from my own, in a country and with a people I have nothing in common, and where my fellow prisoners will likely target me for what I did to Americans, for being a Muslim, for my lack of education, etc. But then I cannot agree with life sentences with no prospect of parole at some time in a distant future, anyway, which thankfully are all but abolished in Europe where I live.


    Black letter and common (none / 0) (#11)
    by ragebot on Mon Aug 05, 2013 at 12:14:33 PM EST
    Law of the sea have large areas of agreement as well as areas of disagreement.

    Things like a 200 mile economic zone and rights to minerals in international waters are examples of areas of disagreement.

    Things line innocent passage and safe haven (e.g. boats can sail almost at will and seek safe haven from bad weather or gear failure) are areas of agreement.

    Individual countries can also pass laws and enforcement of those laws are often based on the ability of a country to use force.  The US claims that if a vessel is documented by the USCG any CG (or similar govt agency) can board that boat at will.  By the same token the CG/Navy/US is bound to protect that boat, kinda like a US embassy.  So if the pirates were on the documented boat, or on a boat close by involved with attacking the documented boat they would be, at least argumently, subject to US law; especially if the US had the men and guns to enforce US law on the high seas.

    This is what happened and is immortalized in the US Marines hymn, e.g. "to the shores of Tripoli".  The Marines went ashore and killed the Barbary pirates.

    Still I have to wonder if it was worth the effort, time, and money to fly these guys half way around the world to try them and put them in the slammer.

    Landlubbers (none / 0) (#28)
    by ragebot on Tue Aug 06, 2013 at 02:55:53 PM EST
    Really do not get the law of the sea.  Almost all nations (with a few exceptions like North Korea, Iran, and a few others) do follow the historic law of the sea.  This means boats get safe passage and safe harbor.

    But almost all nations (again North Korea, Iran, and at times others) understand that the USA and UK have navies that dominate the seas.  And for most things the USA and UK are accepted as fair arbitrators.

    I spend several months a year living on a 42 foot catamaran and cruising.  I meet sailors from all over the world and can assure you they are all happy to see the USCG ships and US Navy planes and ships anywhere in the world.

    This goes double for areas where there is a pirate presence.  This is also not a new development.  Since the 1960s when I started sailing every sailor I have known has been happy to see US flagged ships.