Despite attempts to spin the seizure of two U.S. naval vessels and the detention of ten American sailors by members of the Iran Revolutionary Guards (IRG) last month as a triumph of Secretary of State John Kerry’s diplomacy skills because the sailors were released, evidence suggests that the Iranian view is that of victory against an enemy.

On Sunday, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei awarded the Fath Medal to the head of the IRG commanders responsible for capture that saw photographs of American naval personnel on their knees at gunpoint, hands behind their heads beamed around the world.

The medal has been awarded only to war heroes, military commanders and politicians to honor victory, the literal meaning of the word “fath.”

The Ayatollah, the Supreme Leader of Iran, praised the IRG commanders as “brave” and said the capture “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.”

In the past, Khamenei has said that Iran must remain “wary of the arch-enemy United States” and joined in with crowds chanting “Death to America,” even after the two countries struck a nuclear deal engineered over a span of several years.

The two small vessels were boarded by IRG forces on January 13, the day of President Obama’s final State of the Union Address to Congress and the American people, and released the next day after one of naval personnel apologized for the “mistake” of drifting into Iran’s territory and thanking the IRG for their “hospitality.”

Images of the detained American sailors on their knees and seated on the floor of a room where the lone female sailor sat in a corner, her hair wrapped in a hijab, the traditional headscarf of Muslim women, belied the Obama administration’s assertions that the Iranians had come to the aid of U.S. ships in distress.

Video of 27-year-old Lt. David Nartker’s apology may be in violation of the Code of Conduct for Members of the Armed Forces, which requires service members to provide their name, rank, service number and date of birth upon capture, and “evade answering further questions to the utmost of [their] ability” and “make no oral or written statements disloyal to [the] country and its allies or harmful to their cause.”

The incident occurred just hours before the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action deal between the U.S. and Iran went into effect releasing approximately $100 billion in sanctioned assets.

A former State Department official, Richard Nephew, wrote that the medals ceremony was, “most assuredly a propaganda move meant for internal consumption. [The Iranian government] sees this as an opportunity to tell their people that they can stand up to us.”



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