The supreme leader of Iran has given medals to five of the Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen who captured 10 U.S. sailors earlier this year, according to the Iranian state-owned news organization Press TV . The medals were given to commanders of the units that carried out the capture after the sailors drifted into Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf because of mechanical failures.
The Americans were released later and Iranian officials said that they had detained them in order to question them about whether they were on an intelligence mission. The situation drew harsh criticism in the United States, especially from Republicans who have been critical of President Barack Obama’s policies toward Iran.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave the medals, called Fath medals, in order to celebrate what he called bravery from his guardsmen.
Some have noted that Iran rewarding its guardsmen for capturing American military members appears to be at odds with the narrative provided by the United States government about the relationship between the two countries. While Secretary of State John Kerry initially lauded the release of the 10 prisoners as sign of a great new era in Iran-U.S. diplomacy, others see rewarding the actions that brought the two countries into the situation in the first place as a sign that that assessment may be too generous.
Relations with Iran have been a hot-button issue in U.S. politics recently after the Obama administration brokered a nuclear agreement with Iran in exchange for the lifting of sanctions against the country. Critics of the president have said his approach has been too lenient and could give too much power to the Persian country while also not going far enough in terms of halting their supposed ambition to develop a nuclear warhead. Republican presidential aspirants especially have used the issue to prove their foreign policy chops.