Iran Continues to Incite Against U.S. by Honoring Capture of Sailors

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is planning to build a statue commemorating its January capture of ten American sailors, Stars and Stripes reported on Monday. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter called the U.S. service members’ detainment and treatment by Iran “outrageous” and “inconsistent with international law” last week.

“There are very many photographs of the major incident of arresting U.S. Marines in the Persian Gulf in the media, and we intend to build a symbol out of them inside one of our naval monuments,” said Admiral Ali Fadavi, commander of the IRGC navy, according to Iranian media.

The American sailors were aboard two riverine patrol boats that reportedly experienced mechanical failure when they strayed into Iranian waters on January 12. IRGC naval forces boarded the vessels, captured the sailors, took them to a port facility at gunpoint, and then broadcast their images on state television. The Americans were released after being held overnight.

At the time, Lee Smith, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, described the sailors’ detention as the most recent “hostile act” against the U.S. by Iran. Smith also pointed out that broadcasting images of captured military personnel likely violated the Geneva Conventions, which require that “prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.”

Immediately after the seizure, Sen. John McCain (R – Ariz.) released a statement calling it a breach of naval and legal norms.

The Administration is pretending as if nothing out of the ordinary has occurred. Vice President Joe Biden described the incident as ‘standard nautical practice.’ That assertion is patently false. What’s worse, by failing to affirm basic principles of international law, it places our Navy and Coast Guard vessels and the men and women who sail them at increased risk in the future.

Under international law, sovereign immune vessels like navy ships and boats do not lose their sovereign immune status when they are in distress at sea. Under international law, sovereign immune naval vessels are exempt from detention, boarding, or search. Their crews are not subject to detention or arrest.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the Americans’ capture as “God’s deed,” and later awarded IRGC commanders for their role in the incident.

Fadavi boasted last month that Iran had “extracted a lot of information from the confiscated cell phones and laptops” of the captured sailors.

[Photo: Amichei Stein / Twitter]