US blames Iran for flood toll, says ready to help

An Iranian family walks through a flooded street in a village around the city of Ahvaz. (AFP pic)

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday blamed Iran for the level of devastation from major floods, and said Washington was ready to help.

Pompeo issued a statement in implicit response to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who on Twitter blamed “economic terrorism” by the United States whose sanctions have led to a chronic shortage of rescue helicopters.

“These floods once again show the level of Iranian regime mismanagement in urban planning and in emergency preparedness. The regime blames outside entities when, in fact, it is their mismanagement that has led to this disaster,” Pompeo said in a statement.

“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,” he said.

Vast stretches of Iran have been inundated since mid-March, killing some 50 people and disrupting major transportation and communications.

The Iranian Red Crescent said Tuesday it was preparing to accommodate 100,000 people as rain hits southwestern Khuzestan province.

The disaster struck just as Iran was reeling from the reimposition of sweeping US sanctions with President Donald Trump hoping to curb the clerical regime’s influence around the Middle East.

In contrast with earlier disasters such as the 2003 Bam earthquake, foreign assistance has been minimal amid fear of US penalties for dealings with Iran.

Pompeo in his statement also highlighted Iran’s targeting of environmentalists “for attempting to help Iran prepare for these very issues.”

Eight environmentalists appeared in court earlier this year on charges they were spying on military bases.