Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei awarded medals to five Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) naval commanders for seizing ten American sailors earlier this month, Reuters reported  on Sunday.
Khamenei presented the Fath or Victory medals to the head of the IRGC Navy, Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, and four other commanders. The Fath medal was instituted in 1989 for “war heroes, military commanders and politicians,” especially those who had been involved in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980’s.
The award ceremony was described  on Iran’s semi-official PressTV news site:
Ayatollah Khamenei on January 24 commended as timely and praiseworthy the “brave” move by the IRGC naval forces, who arrested 10 US sailors after their patrol boats entered the country’s territorial waters on January 12.
The Leader stated that the praiseworthy measure by the IRGC forces stemmed from their faith and courage and was taken in the right time, adding that the capture of the US sailors “was in fact an act of God, who brought the Americans into our waters so they would be arrested with their hands on their heads through your timely measure.”
According to an accompanying PressTV news clip , a number of IRGC naval commanders were also promoted for their role in the seizure.
Last week, Khamenei described  the capture of the American sailors as “God’s deed.”
Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official and now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, noted  in Newsweek  that the commander of the IRGC operation that seized British sailors in 2007 “later was decorated as soldier of the year.”
Khamenei would not have rewarded such behavior, Rubin wrote, if it “was not blessed, encouraged, and supported from the very top.”
The report of the award ceremony comes just two days after Iran claimed  that it flew a drone over the American aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman. A video allegedly filmed by the drone is embedded below. Cmdr. William Marks, a U.S. Navy spokesman, would not confirm whether the video was authentic, but acknowledged that an unarmed Iranian drone had flown near the Truman and the French carrier Charles de Gaulle on January 12. Marks said that the drone was not determined to be a threat, though flying it near the carriers was “abnormal and unprofessional.”
In late December, an Iranian naval vessel fired rockets  near the Truman and other American ships in a move that the U.S. Navy called “highly provocative.”
The capture of the two American boats and their crew members earlier this month raised questions as to whether Iran violated international law.
“It appears the seizure by the Iranians violates several, if two or three, well-established principles of international and maritime law,” said  Bill Luti, vice president of Hudson Institute, at a symposium on January 15. “The first one being, of course, being innocent passage, where ships of all states, whether coastal or landlocked, have the right of innocent passage through territorial waters… sovereign immunity of warships… third principle, while we’re not technically at war with Iran, the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the Protocol 1 and 2 of 1977, which clearly prohibit the filming, photographing or otherwise using videotaped or audio-taped confessions or apologies for propaganda purposes.”
“Under international law, sovereign immune naval vessels are exempt from detention, boarding, or search. Their crews are not subject to detention or arrest,” Sen. John McCain (R – Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, explained in a statement  the day after the sailors were seized. McCain is a former Navy officer and was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.
After the sailors’ release, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R – Kan.) called  for an investigation into their treatment by Iran.
I am relieved to hear that the ten U.S. Navy sailors that Iran captured have been returned. We are thankful for the service and bravery of these nine men and one woman. We now must fully investigate Iran for possible violations of the Geneva Convention and ensure these sailors were treated properly.
Iran’s capture of these sailors raises serious questions about the Iranian regime and what it will take for the Obama administration to understand that Iran is not a partner in peace. How many American service members does Iran would have to capture? How many U.N. resolutions does Iran have to violate? And how close do Iranian rockets have to come to U.S. ships before President Obama takes real action against Iran? Is there any limit to what the fanatical Iranian regime can get away with?
Iran seized the Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship Maersk Tigris last year, holding its crew for ten days until the company that owned the vessel agreed to pay a judgment issued by an Iranian court. Legal scholar Eugene Kontorovich wrote  in The Washington Post that the seizure “clearly [violated] international law, and one might add, a branch of international law that is ordinarily well-respected, and quite fundamental for global commerce.”
[Photo: PressTV News Videos / YouTube  ]