US Sanctions Impede Rescue Efforts In Iran During Historic Flooding

In yet more confirmation that US sanctions don't fundamentally punish or weaken regimes they seek to bring down, but hurt the common population America feigns to be helping, a new report finds that relief efforts in the wake historic floods which have created a disaster zone in Iran are being hindered due to Washington's sanctions

The Middle East's main regional emergency response and humanitarian aid arm, the Red Crescent, says that US sanctions have prevented the bulk of badly needed external emergency relief from getting through after record rains have caused the worst floods in nearly a century in multiple provinces across Iran, killing at least 70 and displacing many tens of thousands. 

The worst flooding in 70 years has hit Iran over the past 3 weeks, via the AP.

“No foreign cash help has been given to the Iranian Red Crescent society. With attention to the inhuman American sanctions, there is no way to send this cash assistance,” the Red Crescent said in a statement, cited by Reuters.

In all, international humanitarian groups say up to 90,000 have sought emergency shelter amid response efforts which are faltering due to lack of external help. 

The floods began on March 19, and produced surreal scenes coming out of the country involving flash floods sweeping away cars and whole towns over the past three weeks. 

Poldokhtar is among the cities hit hard, via Sky News

The US has acknowledged the crisis, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledging the US government was prepared to help through the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

However, in rhetoric that sounded similar to his tough talk on Venezuela amid ongoing economic and infrastructural collapse there, he blamed Iran's woes on “mismanagement in urban planning and in emergency preparedness” due to the inept and corrupt leadership of Iran's Ayatollah and other leading clergy. 

Surreal scenes of entire towns being swept away by flash floods have come out of Iran over the past weeks.

But Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in statements last week pointed the finger at Washington for imposing an economic blockade by seeking to prevent European and other international companies from doing business with Iran: “Blocked equipment includes relief choppers: This isn’t just economic warfare; it’s economic TERRORISM,” he said on Twitter.

Over the weekend sustained rains continued to unleash floods in the southwest of the country, and new evacuation efforts are underway for towns along the Iraq border, near rivers and dams already bulging under the strain. 

Meanwhile the head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, Ali Asghar Peyvandi, in fresh statements slammed the US for blocking the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT).

Peyvandi said: "We used a number of bank accounts connected to SWIFT, which we used for receiving international aid. But at the moment these accounts are subject to sanctions."

Six cities along the Karkheh River in southwestern Khuzestan province were ordered evacuated over the weekend. Image source: Tasnim News/AFP

"It's impossible to transfer cash from other countries as well as the International Federation of [Red Cross and] Red Crescent Societies," he added.

Thus far it's unclear just how the US State Department plans to help, other than send funds through the Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations; however, that would ironically run the risk of violating Washington's own sanctions against Tehran.