Iran Awards Medals for Capture of U.S. Sailors

DUBAI (Reuters) -
This picture released by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, shows detained American Navy sailors' boats in custody of the guards in the Persian Gulf Iran. Less than a day after 10 U.S. Navy sailors were detained in Iran when their boats drifted into Iranian waters, they and their vessels were back safely Wednesday with the American fleet. (Sepahnews via AP)
This picture released by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Jan. 13 shows American Navy boats in custody of the guards in the Persian Gulf, Iran. (Sepahnews via AP)

Iran’s supreme leader has bestowed victory medals to his navy commanders for capturing U.S. sailors who entered Iranian territorial waters this month, Iran’s state media said on Sunday.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has said Iran should remain wary of its arch-enemy the United States even after a landmark accord over Tehran’s nuclear program, awarded the ‘Fath’ (Victory) medal to the head of the navy of the Revolutionary Guards and four commanders involved in the seizure of two U.S. Navy boats.

Since 1989, Iran has awarded the Fath medal to war heroes, military commanders, and politicians – especially those linked to the eight-year Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

The Revolutionary Guards said it had determined the patrol boats had entered Iranian territorial waters by mistake.

Iran freed the ten U.S. sailors on Jan. 13, a day after detaining them aboard the two U.S. Navy patrol boats in the Gulf, bringing a swift end to an incident that rattled nerves shortly before the expected implementation of the nuclear agreement with world powers.

The quick resolution was a striking contrast to previous cases in which British servicemen were held by Iran for considerably longer, in once case for almost two weeks.