(CNSNews.com) – “An act of God” was responsible for U.S. Navy sailors entering Iranian waters, leading to their arrest at gunpoint, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday told Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) members who detained the Americans.
“Your job was excellent, interesting and timely and, in fact, we must consider this incident as an act of God, who brought Americans into our waters so they would be arrested through your timely action and in that manner, with their hands held above their heads,” Khamenei told the group in a face-to-face meeting, according to a report on the supreme leader’s office website.
The site said Khamenei had “heaped praise” on the IRGC Navy personnel “who had courageously taken action against the entry of U.S. troops into the Islamic Republic of Iran’s territorial waters by arresting the trespassers.”
He said their brave action had been “inspired by faith.”
Another site linked to the regime, khamenei.ir, translated his words as follows, “You did a brilliant, interesting and timely job. In fact, this event should be considered God’s work. He drew them towards our waters so that with your timely measure, they would be arrested in that manner – with their hands on their heads.”
IRGC personnel intercepted and detained 10 sailors and two small U.S. Navy patrol vessels for around 15 hours, after what U.S. Central Command described as “indications of a mechanical issue” with one of the boats’ engines.
Iranian media broadcast photos and video footage showing the sailors kneeling on a deck at gunpoint, hands clasped behind their heads.
In a Jan. 13 statement Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed their release and voiced his “gratitude to the Iranian authorities for their cooperation in swiftly resolving the matter.”
Five days later, asked during media interviews for his reaction to the Iranian propaganda images, Kerry described himself as angry and frustrated. Some Republican lawmakers have criticized the administration’s handling of the “humiliating” incident.
The khamenei.ir Twitter account on Sunday posted a photo of the kneeling American sailors, along with a quote from Khamenei’s remarks to the IRGC servicemen.
Some of the strongest criticism of Iran’s action came on Saturday from Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir, who was answering a reporter’s question about whether the kingdom was concerned about signs of U.S.-Iran rapprochement.
Speaking alongside Kerry in Riyadh, Jubeir said Iran should never have seized the U.S. sailors.
“Iran had no business taking people and putting guns to their heads and then showcasing those pictures around the world, and then claiming to be a country that acts in normal ways,” he said. “Normal countries do not act like this when sailors inadvertently enter their territorial waters.”
Jubeir added that he did not believe the U.S. was “under any illusion as to what type of government Iran is.”