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U.S. Sanctions Hurt Iran Flood Relief Efforts

One of the many unfortunate but predictable consequences of U.S. sanctions on Iran is that they have become an obstacle to providing humanitarian aid to Iranians suffering from the effects of natural disasters. The recent widespread flooding across much of Iran has killed dozens and threatened many towns and cities throughout the country, but the international aid response has been negligible and assistance from the United States has been non-existent:

Two weeks into devastating floods that have caused tremendous losses and damages across Iran, there is still no report about other countries extending help.

The United States, a usual volunteer to extend support after every natural disaster in Iran regardless of tense relations between the two countries during the past decades, has not been reported to have seized the opportunity on the world stage to make a publicized offer of help.

On March 25, the Persian Twitter account of the State Department made a short announcement offering sympathies and a one-sentence expression of readiness to help, but senior U.S. officials have not officially made any serious offer.

The failure to offer meaningful humanitarian assistance for such a major disaster is the latest grim reminder that the administration’s professions of support for the Iranian people are just so much empty rhetoric. A natural disaster of this magnitude would normally be an occasion for our government to offer logistical support and humanitarian assistance to the affected country, but there appears to be no real interest in doing so. Even the Bush administration made some effort to aid Iran after the devastating Bam earthquake in 2003, but the current administration seems more interesting in using the floods and the Iranian government’s inadequate response to them to score political points. Meanwhile, sanctions are getting in the way of relief work:

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement that it was ready to offer help to Iran, but “challenges caused by unilateral sanctions will affect the UN response and the accountability of UN to deliver the appropriate support”, Reuters reported on March 26.

According to the Iranian Red Crescent, U.S. sanctions are preventing the transactions needed to support relief efforts inside Iran:

Meanwhile, a top Iranian aid official has complained about the impact of US sanctions on the recovery and aid efforts. Ali Asghar Peyvandi, the head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, said March 30, “Prior to the [reimposition of US] sanctions, we had some Red Crescent accounts connected to SWIFT, and we sought international aid through them. However, at present, these accounts have been sanctioned and there is no possibility for money transfers from other countries,” including the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The Iranian government also claims that sanctions are interfering with the delivery of relief helicopters to assist in rescue operations:

Iran said on Monday that U.S. sanctions were impeding aid workers from sending helicopters to flood-hit regions of the country because of the poor state of the national helicopter fleet.

This is one of the clearest illustrations yet of the destructive effects that U.S. sanctions are having on the country, and the civilian population is being forced to bear the brunt of those effects. The reimposed sanctions are unjust and inhumane, and the next administration should act quickly to lift them.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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