70,000 ordered to flee their homes in Iran flood disaster

The disaster has left aid agencies struggling to cope. (AFP)
Updated 10 April 2019

70,000 ordered to flee their homes in Iran flood disaster

  • The governor said the disaster was unprecedented
  • Nearly 80 people have died in the past three weeks in floods described as the worst since the 1940s

JEDDAH: Iranian authorities ordered nearly 70,000 people to flee their homes on Wednesday as floodwater poured into the city of Ahvaz, capital of Khuzestan province.

Provincial governor Gholamreza Shariati pleaded for young men to volunteer to “help us in building dykes and to assist in the evacuation of women, children and the elderly.”

The governor said the disaster was unprecedented. “The Dez and Karkheh rivers have for the first time joined each other near Ahvaz and are now flowing toward the city,” he said.

“These two rivers are far away from each other, but the huge volume of floodwater caused them to join up.”

Nearly 80 people have died in the past three weeks in floods described as the worst since the 1940s, devastating about 1,900 cities and villages in 20 of Iran’s 31 provinces.

The northeast was first swamped on March 19 before the west and southwest were hit on March 25. On April 1, the west and southwest were again swamped by floods when heavy rain returned.

The huge inflow of water forced authorities to release large volumes of water from Khuzestan province’s largest dams, which is now threatening some of the cities downstream, including the Ahvaz region, where 1.3 million people live.

The disaster has left aid agencies struggling to cope, and the armed forces have been deployed to help victims. Emergency services have been left scrambling to prevent further loss of life and to provide relief to flood-stricken residents.

“Delivering food and hygienic goods to camps is our primary priority and we have provided emergency accommodation for about 44,000 people,” said Morteza Salimi, the Iran Red Crescent’s head of Relief and Rescue.

In the city of Susangerd, swamped by floodwater, people are living in tents on the roofs of their homes as what had previously been roads were turned into canals.

Red Crescent helicopters were providing food and basic goods to regions cut off by floods, with villagers rushing to receive the help as they approached.

Iran’s leaders have been widely criticized for their response to the flooding and the loss of life. “Clearly the regime was caught unaware and unprepared for the disaster,” said Borzou Daragahi, of the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Security Initiative.

“Mostly bigwigs showed up at the flood zone for infuriating photo ops, in what will likely be remembered throughout Iran as the country’s Hurricane Katrina moment.”


Dick Cheney: Upcoming decade bleak if US adopts ‘disengagement’ policy

Updated 10 December 2019

Dick Cheney: Upcoming decade bleak if US adopts ‘disengagement’ policy

  • Former US vice president sounds warning during panel discussion on ‘The global order 2030’
  • Remarks seen as indirect criticism of President Trump’s pledge to pull forces out of Syria

DUBAI: Dick Cheney, one of the most influential vice presidents in US history, has warned that “American disengagement” from the Middle East would only benefit Iran and Russia.

The 78-year-old politician’s warning came during a speech at the Arab Strategy Forum (ASF) in Dubai, an annual event in which the world’s leading decision-makers address global challenges and opportunities in “a precise, balanced and politically scientific manner.”

Cheney’s remarks could be seen as indirect criticism of US President Donald Trump’s pledges to pull forces out of northern Syria.

Addressing conference delegates, he cited the withdrawal of US troops from Syria and the 2015 lifting of sanctions against Iran during Barack Obama’s presidency, as events that amplified instability in the region.

“Our allies were left abandoned, and no one wants to feel that way again,” said Cheney, who was chief executive of Halliburton between 1995 and 2000 and held high posts in several Republican administrations.

The former VP’s remarks came during the forum’s concluding session titled, “The global order 2030: The Unites States and China,” which was attended by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

Joined by Li Zhaoxing, a former Chinese foreign minister, in a candid panel discussion, Cheney offered his views on the world order in the next decade within the context of Iran’s regional ascendancy, China’s rise and Russian ambitions in the Middle East.

“I am not here to speak on behalf of the US government, or to speak to it,” Cheney said, adding that his talking points reflected concerns he suspected everyone shared.

“For decades, there’s been a consensus of America’s influence in the world and how to use it,” he said, citing instances where US disengagement had caused the political situation in the Middle East to implode.

“Humanity has benefited from America’s protectionism of the world and its relationship with its allies in the region.”

According to him, the upcoming decade would be bleak should the US adopt a disengagement policy, with the pressures most felt by supporters and partners in the Middle East.

Turning to the role that the US and China would play in the global status quo by 2030, Cheney said there were still concerns over China’s reputation.

“We had hoped that there would be a political evolution in China, but that hasn’t happened yet,” he added.

Li said: “China will never learn from a world superpower and will never try to be hegemonic,” citing as examples China’s strong relations with the UAE and the wider Arab world, and the impact of the Belt and Road Initiative (a global development strategy) on Chinese foreign policy.

“History is the best teacher, but the US has forgotten its own history. You don’t keep your promises,” added Li, directing his statement at Cheney.

Cheney said that since the end of the Cold War, the US had expected that its policy toward China would have had a beneficial effect on its behavior and helped to deepen bilateral relations.

“It was disappointing to see that these expectations were not borne out – China has only grown richer, the regime has become more oppressive, and instead of evolving, it became more assertive,” he said.

In a separate ASF meeting at the Ritz-Carlton, Dubai International Financial Center, Karim Sadjadpour, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, discussed Iran’s policies in a session titled, “The race for relevance and influence in the region: GCC, Iran, Turkey and Russia.”

Sadjadpour said he expected in the next 10 years to see the arrival of “an Iranian Putin” with a military background as the country’s next leader.

“After 40 years of a clerical regime and a military autocracy, there is now a rise of Persian nationalism. This is a shift from the sheer revolution ideology,” he said.

Sadjadpour said there had been an evolution of “Shiite Arab” identity during the past two decades, with the focus more on religion than nationality.

Under the circumstances, he noted that Sunni Arab powers had an important role to play in welcoming Shiite Arabs into their fold “and luring them away from Iran.”

The analyst added that the future of the Arab world could not be explored and forecast without considering a growing mental health crisis. “Today, hundreds of millions of people in the region suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and the effects of this will be with us for decades to come, resulting in issues like radicalism.”

He said there was a need for training thousands of counselors in the field of mental health in order to reach out to those whose lives had been robbed by extreme violence and conflicts.