IRAN’S foreign minister says the US is waging ‘economic terrorism’ against the Islamic Republic by employing restrictive measures that are troubling the relief efforts targeting flood-stricken people across the country.
Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday that the sanctions are ‘impeding aid efforts by the Iranian Red Crescent to all communities devastated by unprecedented floods. Blocked equipment includes relief choppers.’
‘This isn’t just economic warfare; it’s economic TERRORISM,’ he added.
Washington’s refusal to relieve its bans comes as countrywide flooding, unleashed by heavy downpours on Iran since March 19, has killed scores of people and has pushed relief and rescue organisations to the utmost.
Emergency alerts and evacuation orders have been issued in several provinces, where heavy rainfall has triggered raging torrents of water.
Iran’s Army and the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) have stepped up ongoing relief efforts in several provinces hardest hit by flash floods, as people in most parts of the country continue to grapple with adverse weather conditions.
The Army scrambled a dozen military transport helicopters to Lorestan’s flood-hit areas after heavy rainfall caused local rivers to burst their banks, triggering flash floods that swept through provincial towns and villages, and forced massive evacuations on Monday.
Brigadier General Kiomars Heidari, the commander of the Iranian Army’s Ground Forces, said on Tuesday that 10 choppers had already arrived in the area to deliver rescue and relief operations and two more were to join the fleet later in the day.
The commander noted that much of the rescue efforts were centred in the city of Pol-e Dokhtar, where hundreds of people were trapped in areas cut off by violent torrents of water.
He noted that the Army was moving tactical military bridges from Ahvaz, the capital of the neighbouring Khuzestan province, to help with rescue operations in Loresten which were expected to conclude by the end of the day.
The Army also moved dozens of armoured personnel carriers (APCs) to Lorestan in order to speed up rescue operations in inundated areas where road vehicles cannot be used.
The Air Force’s 4th Combat and Logistics Base in Isfahan said it was ready to deploy its assets in the province, where heavy rains and strong winds have caused major damage to buildings and cars, as well as in other parts of the country.
The IRGC also announced that had it deployed several choppers, drones, an engineering unit as well as two make-shift hospitals in Lorestan province.
Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour, the IRGC Ground Force’s chief, has travelled to Lorestan to closely monitor the efforts, according to Sepahnews, the force’s official news outlet.
IRGC spokesman Brigadier General Ramezan Sharif told reporters that the force was flying reconnaissance drones over flooded areas to locate survivors and carry out damage estimates.
According to Sharif, the IRGC was also building bridges in flooded areas to speed up evacuations.
He predicted that the first stage of the relief efforts would end by late Tuesday given that the weather conditions were improving.
Sharif gave assurances that in the next step, the IRGC would focus on reconstruction projects and would continue its efforts until life in affected areas would be restored to normal.
The Iranian Red Crescent Society announced on Tuesday that it had deployed a team of specially skilled rescue workers and divers to Lorestan as large parts of the province, specially in Pol-e Dokhtar, remained under water.
The group is equipped with rescue boats, electric generators and water pumps for emergency situations.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Saeed Namaki announced on Tuesday that the death toll from the nationwide floods and extreme weather conditions had risen to 46.
Out of that figure, 21 lost their lives in the flash floods that swept away hundreds of cars and damaged a large number of buildings in the tourist city of Shiraz, in the southern province of Fars last week.
The minister noted that water samples analysed in the flood-hit areas had not been contaminated, ruling out the possibility of water-related infectious diseases.
In Kermanshah, heavy rain and snowfall have slowed down the commute on main roads, while officials have warned of imminent flooding in this western province.
Authorities raised similar alarms of imminent flooding in other western provinces including Hamedan and Markazi, which have received plentiful levels of snow and rainfall in recent days.
Local authorities in Hamedan’s small town of Assad Abad said floodwaters had inundated most of the city’s agricultural lands and caused major damage in rural parts.
Officials in Khuzestan also warned of persisting risks of flood as heavy rains continued to pound various cities across the oil-rich southwestern province.
In the capital Tehran, there were reports of flood in suburban areas such as Fasham as rainfall reached near-historic levels.
Several villages to the south of Tehran have been evacuated.
Most businesses and recreational centres in the capital that are close to rivers with a risk of overflowing have been kept closed.
Police have advised people to avoid unnecessary travelling in high-risk areas.
The Iran Meteorological Organisation (IRMO) has warned that a new low pressure system is expected to enter the country today, Thursday, bringing more rain.
Heavy downpours have caused the average level of rainfall in some parts of the country to more than triple during the first few days of the Persian New Year compared to last year.
- The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has set May 15 as the deadline for the US to give detailed accounts of its measures to lift sanctions on humanitarian supplies to the country.
The ICJ has informed the US of the deadline in a letter, Iranian legal representative at the ICJ Mohsen Mohebbi said on Saturday.
Washington is required to report to the Court about measures it was supposed to carry out regarding the ICJ’s orders with respect to the removal of Iran bans, Mohebbi said.
Back in October 2018, the ICJ ordered the United States to halt the unilateral sanctions it had re-imposed on ‘humanitarian’ supplies to Iran.
The Hague-based court, which is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, announced its ruling on October 3 regarding the July 2018 lawsuit brought by Tehran against Washington’s decision to re-impose unilateral sanctions following the US exit from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.
In a definitive victory for Tehran, the International Court of Justice ordered Washington to halt unilateral sanctions that endanger the flow of ‘humanitarian’ supplies into Iran.
The decisions of the ICJ – which rules on disputes between UN member states – are legally binding.
The ruling requires Washington to allow supply of medicine and medical devices, food and agricultural goods and airplane parts, which directly deal with human lives, according to Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassem.
Iran’s lawsuit argued that the sanctions violate the terms of the 1955 Treaty of Amity between Iran and the US, which the latter cancelled following the October ruling.
The US claims it has formally exempted humanitarian supplies, but banks and financial institutions refuse to process Iran-related transactions for fear of provoking US sanctions.
- Iran has welcomed a final statement by the Arab League summit of leaders in Tunisia endorsing Syria’s sovereignty over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Sunday that the Arab League’s move to support Syria’s territorial integrity on the occupied Golan Heights was a ‘positive and promising’ step in the face of efforts by the United States to legitimise Israel’s occupation of the area.
‘We believe that the Muslim world should continue to prioritise the issue of the occupation of the Arab-Muslim lands by the illegitimate Israeli regime,’ said Qassemi in a statement.
The comments come amid an international uproar about US President Donald Trump’s provocative decision to recognise ‘Israeli sovereignty’ over Syria’s Golan Heights.
In 1967, Israel waged a full-scale war against Arab territories, during which it occupied some two-thirds of Syria’s Golan Heights and annexed the region four years later, a move never recognised by the international community.
Tunisia says it will coordinate with other Arab countries against the US decision to recognise ‘Israeli sovereignty’ over Syria’s Golan Heights.
Qassemi further criticised parts of the final statement of the Arab League summit which claimed Iran was interfering in the internal affairs of the Arab nations.
He also condemned claims in the statement which expressed doubts about Iran’s sovereignty on the three islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb, located in the Persian Gulf.
‘We strongly reject and condemn wrong and baseless claims on our country’s interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries as well as claims on Iran’s three islands,’ said the Iranian official, adding that Iran’s permanent policy was to refrain from meddling in the internal affairs of its neighbours.
Iran has repeatedly rejected claims by the United Arab Emirates about the three Iranian islands, saying that they are an ‘inseparable’ part of Iran.