By Rebecca Kheel - 02/01/16 10:34 AM EST
The Iranian navy commanders who captured 10 U.S. sailors last month were awarded high military honors over the weekend by the country’s supreme leader.
The capture of the U.S. 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,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, according to state news agency Press TV.
The Fath Medal, awarded to war heroes, military commanders and politicians, is among the highest honors Iran's supreme leader bestows and is rarely awarded.
On Jan. 12, two Navy riverine boats carrying 10 sailors strayed into Iranian waters after what the Pentagon has called a “navigational error.” Iran detained the sailors for 16 hours.
The Obama administration has cast the incident as a victory for diplomacy because of the relatively quick release of the sailors. But critics in Congress have decried the incident, saying it showed how Iran has been emboldened by the recently implemented nuclear deal.
Iran released pictures and videos of the sailors kneeling with their hands behind their heads and apologizing for going into Iran’s territorial waters.