US blames Iranian ‘mismanagement’ for slow deadly floods response

Areas affected by floods in the country's northeastern Golestan region. (AFP)
Updated 03 April 2019

US blames Iranian ‘mismanagement’ for slow deadly floods response

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says US ready to assist and contribute aid
  • Iran said the sanctions impeded Iran’s ability to provide aid helicopters

TEHRAN: The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blames Iranian "mismanagement" for hampering rescue efforts in flood-stricken areas. 

Mike Pompeo hit back at claims earlier from Tehran that US sanctions re-imposed by the Trump administration last year have been the major obstacle to successful rescue efforts.

Iran has been facing major flooding for the past two weeks and on Monday, the death toll in the disaster rose to 45. The floods have struck hundreds of villages as well as towns and cities in the western half of the country, where in some places an emergency situation has been declared.

"These floods once again show the level of Iranian regime mismanagement in urban planning and in emergency preparedness," Pompeo said. "The regime blames outside entities when, in fact, it is their mismanagement that has led to this disaster. They even jail environmentalists for attempting to help Iran prepare for these very issues.

"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."

Earlier, Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that America’s “maximum pressure” policy on Iran “is impeding aid efforts by Iranian Red Crescent to all communities devastated by unprecedented floods.”

He said the sanctions have prevented Tehran from getting badly needed equipment, including relief helicopters. “This isn’t just economic warfare; it’s economic terrorism.”

 

Local authorities in the stricken areas have repeatedly asked for more helicopters to reach remote and cutoff locations, AP reported. Iranian state media said on Tuesday that dozens of military and Iranian Red Crescent helicopters are taking part in the relief operation.

Britain and Germany have offered to send help, including boats and safety equipment.

Iranian media reports said the floods have cut off some 80 intercity roads, as well as roads to nearly 2,200 villages, and that electricity and communications with many places, including in western Ilam and Lorestan provinces, have been cut.

Authorities have issued evacuation warnings and state TV has broadcast footage showing inundated towns and villages in western and southwestern Iran. State media said officials have warned about the possibility of dams breaking and have ordered emergency water discharges from reservoirs to prevent a catastrophe.

Triggered by heavy rainfall, several rivers have burst from their banks. Emergency services are advising people to postpone unnecessary intra-city commutes as well as trips to western and southern Iran, including the oil-rich Khuzestan province which is expecting heavy flooding in the coming days as overflowing rivers from provinces upstream reach Khuzestan.

The floods have hit Iran particularly hard, coming against the backdrop of a spiraling economic crisis. President Donald Trump’s decision last year to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal with world powers and restore crippling economic sanctions have caused the Iranian currency, the rial, to plummet in recent months, sending prices skyrocketing and wiping out many people’s life savings.

The floods first began in the second half of March in the northern provinces of Golestan and Mazandaran and later spread. Iran has seen a decades-long drought but the latest flooding has also been blamed on widespread disregard of safety measures and construction of buildings and roads near the rivers.

Last year, at least 30 people were killed by flash floods in East Azerbaijan province.

*With AP

 


US to pull last troops from north Syria

Updated 14 October 2019

US to pull last troops from north Syria

  • The developments illustrate Washington’s waning influence over events in Syria
  • Turkey aims to neutralize the Kurdish YPG militia, the main element of US’s Kurdish-led ally the Syrian Democratic Forces

WASHINGTON/BEIRUT: The United States said on Sunday it will withdraw its remaining 1,000 troops from northern Syria in the face of an expanding Turkish offensive while Syria’s army struck a deal with Kurdish forces to redeploy along its border with Turkey, both major victories for Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The developments illustrate Washington’s waning influence over events in Syria and the failure of the US policy of keeping Assad from reasserting state authority over areas lost during the more than eight-year conflict with rebels trying to end his rule.
The developments also represent wins for Russia and Iran, which have backed Assad since 2011 when his violent effort to crush what began as peaceful protests against his family’s decades-long rule of Syria exploded into a full-blown civil war.
While the US withdrawal moves American troops out of the line of fire, the return of Syrian soldiers to the Turkish border opens up the possibility of a wider conflagration should the Syrian army come in direct conflict with Turkish forces.
The Turkish onslaught in northern Syria has also raised the prospect that Daesh militants and their families held by the Kurdish forces targeted by Turkey may escape — scores were said to have done so already — and permit the group’s revival.
The remarkable turn of events was set in motion a week ago when US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw about 50 special operations forces from two outposts in northern Syria, a step widely seen as paving the way for Turkey to launch its week-long incursion against Kurdish militia in the region.
Turkey aims to neutralize the Kurdish YPG militia, the main element of Washington’s Kurdish-led ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has been a key US ally in dismantling the “caliphate” set up by Daesh militants in Syria.
Ankara regards the YPG as a terrorist group aligned with Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said the offensive would extend from Kobani in the west to Hasaka in the east and extend some 30 kilometers into Syrian territory, with the town of Ras al Ain now in Turkish control.
US Defense Secretary Mike Esper said the United States decided to withdraw its roughly 1,000 troops in northern Syria — two US officials told Reuters it could pull the bulk out in days — after learning of the deepening Turkish offensive.
It was unclear what would happen to the several hundred US troops at the American military outpost of Tanf, near Syria’s southern border with Iraq and Jordan.
Another factor behind the decision, Esper indicated in an interview with the CBS program “Face the Nation,” was that the SDF aimed to make a deal with Russia and Syria to counter the Turkish onslaught. Several hours later, the Kurdish-led administration said it had struck just such an agreement for the Syrian army to deploy along the length of the border with Turkey to help repel Ankara’s offensive.
The deployment would help the SDF in countering “this aggression and liberating the areas that the Turkish army and mercenaries had entered,” it added, referring to Turkey-backed Syrian rebels, and would also allow for the liberation of other Syrian cities occupied by the Turkish army such as Afrin.
The fighting has sparked Western concerns that the SDF, holding large swathes of northern Syria once controlled by Daesh, would be unable to keep thousands of militants in jail and tens of thousands of their family members in camps.