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Zarif and Pompeo Exchange Insults and Accusations as Floods Continue

April 3, 2019
Shima Shahrabi
6 min read
Floods are reportedly receding in the provinces of Ilam and Lorestan but the situation in Khuzestan remains critical
Floods are reportedly receding in the provinces of Ilam and Lorestan but the situation in Khuzestan remains critical

“Mom, mom! Which one is our home?” asks the voice of a child as floods tumble and carry away houses. “Don’t know,” the mother answers. “I think it’s the one in the middle.”

On Tuesday April 2, this video [in Persian] was one of the most-watched on Iranian social media.

There are reports that floods in the western provinces of Ilam and Lorestan have receded, but photographs and video footage of the area show the waters have left a huge amount of mud in their wake. Alireza Kakavand, the head of Lorestan’s Water and Sewage Company, said that 620 villages in the province have no drinking water due to damage caused to water lines and the area’s infrastructure.

The situation in the southwestern province of Khuzestan remains critical. According to Ali Asghar Peyvandi, president of the Iranian Red Crescent, water continues to rush into the province. “Water is running from Ilam and Lorestan toward Khuzestan and the volume of water behind the dams in the province is increasing,” he said on state-run TV [Persian link]. “And when the dams are opened many villages are likely to be submerged in water. For this reason, emergency shelter must be found for 100,000 people.”

Gholamreza Shariati, Khuzestan’s provincial governor, also spoke about the crisis: “An emergency situation has been declared in the cities of Susangerd, Hoveyzeh and Bostan and, if required, we will quickly announce that they must be evacuated.” And the governor of the Khuzestani city of Hamidiyeh called on the residents of 11 villages in his county to evacuate without delay to escape flooding by Karkheh, a major river in the area.

Over the last few days, the rural areas of the western province of Kermanshah have been badly hit by the floods. On Tuesday, Houshang Bazvand, the provincial governor, told Fars News Agency that five villages are completely surrounded by floods and more than 67 villages are cut off because bridges and roads have been destroyed.

Mojtaba Khaledi, the spokesman for Iran’s Emergency Organization, told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) that so far the floods have killed 57 people and injured 478. Of these, he said, “22 were in Shiraz, seven in Golestan, five in Mazandaran, three in North Khorasan, three in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad and five in Lorestan." He reported that floods were still causing damage in the provinces of Razavi Khorasan, Semnan, Hamadan, Khuzestan, Kermanshah, Zanjan, Qazvin and Ilam. In addition to the dozens who have already lost their lives, one more death had been reported — but considering that it has been difficult to access accurate and up-to-date information from these provinces, the actual number of fatalities is likely to be much higher than official reports suggest. 

“The total infrastructure damage caused by the flood is estimated to be over 1.6 trillion tomans [$380 million],” said Mohammad Eslami, the Minister of Roads and Urban Development, “and this amount is in addition to the costs of fundamental and necessary repairs. These costs have yet to be estimated.” The Ministry of Agriculture has announced that damages to the agricultural sector in 12 Iranian provinces exceeds 3.8 trillion tomans, over $900 million.

Reports and videos from local sources show people trying to clear mud and water from their homes without any resources or  tools at their disposal.


International Aid and Sanctions

Over the last two days, Germany, Turkey and the United Kingdom have announced their readiness to help relief efforts, while Iranian officials have been blaming United States sanctions for preventing the delivery of help to flood victims.

“Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ impeding aid efforts by the Iranian Red Crescent to all communities devastated by unprecedented floods,” tweeted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on April 1. “Blocked equipment includes relief choppers. This isn't just economic warfare; it's economic TERRORISM.”

On April 2, Bahram Ghasemi, the foreign ministry’s spokesman, said that since bank accounts belonging to the Iranian Red Crescent are blocked, no foreign national or Iranian living abroad can send help to flood victims. “In recent days, relief organizations such as the Red Cross and the Red Crescent have announced that they cannot deliver aid to the Red Crescent of the Islamic Republic,” he told IRNA. “It seems that the US intends to prevent sending humanitarian aid to flood victims.” He said that, at the moment, a shortage of equipment such as helicopters is having a huge impact. Iran has had difficulty in acquiring such vital equipment, and he called on international organizations to take urgent action to help.

The US has repeatedly claimed over the last year that humanitarian aid would not be affected by the sanctions, and each time, Iran has rejected this claim. Now, in response to criticism from the Iranian foreign ministry and Zarif, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced that the US is ready to send aid to Iran to help flood victims — but he also blamed the Iranian government for the situation.

"These floods once again show the level of the Iranian regime mismanagement in urban planning and in emergency preparedness,” Pompeo said in a statement on April 2. “The regime blames outside entities when, in fact, it is their mismanagement that has led to this disaster...The United States stands ready to assist and contribute to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which would then direct the money through the Iranian Red Crescent for relief.”

Pompeo also referred to Iran's targeting of environmentalists "for attempting to help Iran prepare for these very issues." Eight environmentalists appeared in court last October on the charge of spying on military bases. Five of the accused face a possible death penalty. Kavous Seyed-Emami, who was arrested along with them, died in custody on February 9, 2018. Iran’s judiciary informed his family that he had committed suicide in prison.

According to Fars News Agency, on Tuesday, April 2, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei attended a meeting about providing relief to flood-stricken areas. Also at the meeting were the First Vice President, the head of the Planning and Budget Organization, the ministers of the Interior, Energy, Health and Roads and Urban Development, the president of the Red Crescent, top armed forces commanders and directors of major relief organizations. No information has yet been made available on decisions made during the meeting.


Related Coverage:

The Iran Floods and Ayatollah Khamenei’s Responsibilities, April 2, 2019

Iran’s Hurricane Katrina Moment, April 2, 2019

The Floods, the Foreign Conspiracy and Rouhani vs. the Guards, April 1, 2019

Iran Floods: What are the Government’s Legal Duties?, March 29, 2019

Rouhani Visits Devastated Areas as Floods Continue, March 28, 2019

Iran’s Budget for Religion 80 Times Higher Than Disaster Relief, March 28, 2019

As Environmentalists Perish in Prison..., March 26, 2019

Iran’s New Year Floods, March 25, 2019




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