Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei recently visited the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) personnel who took into custody 10 American sailors earlier this month, praising them for their actions.
The Times of Israel reported that Khamenei celebrated the members of the IRGC Navy unit for the “courage” and “strong faith” they displayed when capturing the two U.S. naval craft and their crew members on January 12, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency. Iran accused the 10 American sailors of drifting into Iranian territorial waters and they were held overnight, their weapons and personal equipment seized by the Iranian personnel.
“You did an excellent job,” Khamenei told the IRGC unit. “Certainly, it was the divine job that sent the Americans straying into our territorial waters only to be promptly captured with their hands behind their heads.”
Iranian political and military leaders have sought to embarrass and undermine the United States in the wake of the incident. Immediately following the sailors’ release, Iran state media released images of the sailors in captivity, their weapons and equipment seized. The only female crew member also appeared to have been made to wear a Muslim headscarf.
The White House said that it was not embarrassed by photos of the American sailors captured on their knees with their hands behind their heads.
Additional images showed the IRGC personnel sifting through the American crew members’ weapons and ammunition and looking at their documents. The first public account of the incident released by the Pentagon last week indicated that the Iranians had likely removed two SIM cards from phones belonging to the U.S. sailors.
The sailors’ detention came just before the official implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran, which lifted international sanctions on the country. Iran is expected to receive an estimated $100 billion in sanctions relief as a result.
Despite the nuclear agreement finalized last July, Khamenei has continued to demonize the United States. In September, the supreme leader labeled the U.S. the “great Satan” and insisted that Iran would not engage in any future negotiations with the country.