President Hassan Rouhani and Mohammad Ali Ja'afari, commander of IRGC - Radio Farda
CAIRO – 3 April 2019: Widespread flooding across Iran has deepened the fissures already growing between the government of President Hassan Rouhani and the all-powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
At least 42 people have been killed and more than 25,000 homes destroyed across in Iran in flash flooding caused by unseasonably heavy rainfall.
The scale of the catastrophe has led IRGC commanders and their backers to question the government’s handling of the situation.
Tens of thousands of guards and paramilitary Basijis were mobilized to take charge of the situation on the ground. Their affiliated media outlets meanwhile savaged the government’s perceived incompetence.
Tensions began to brim on the evening of March 24 in the northern town of Aq Aqala in Golestan province, near the Turkmenistan border, where roughly 30,000 residents were battling the rising water.
General Mohammad Ali (Aziz) Jafari, the IRGC commander-in-chief, ordered several controlled explosions to divert the water away from residential areas. In the process, the IRGC engineers blew up part of a railway line connecting Iran with Turkmenistan.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has called Washington’s announcement that it is willing to help in flood disaster, “fake news”.
Zairf tweetd on April 2 that based on comments by the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), “Iranian Red Crescent can’t receive any funds due to illegal US sanctions. US should own up to economic terrorism”.
In his tweet Zarif calls the remark attributed to ICRC president Peter Maurer as the "REAL NEWS", but Maurer has not publicly spoken about U.S. sanctions and floods in Iran, according to Radio Farda.
Iran's official news outlet IRNA published a dispatch from New York saying that Maurer made his remarks at the UN Security Council in New York on April 1. But a review of Maurer's remarks show that he spoke about the need for the international community to protect humanitarian action in conflict areas and had nothing to do with Iran or floods.
Meanwhile, all Iranian media outlets are repeating the claim that he has publicly said U.S. sanctions impede the work of ICRC.
Zarif had made the same charge of “economic terrorism” in a previous tweet April 1, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later on April 2 issued a statement blaming the Iranian authorities for “mismanagement” for the large extent of the flood 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 added.
Zarif's latest tweet was an quick response to Pompeo's statement.
These exchanges show that Iran is simply raising the issue of U.S. sanctions as the flood disaster is an international headline, while Pompeo is offering direct disaster relief aid, as flood destruction enters its third week.