As non-stop heavy downpours continued to wreak havoc upon Iran, the country's supreme leader expressed gratitude to the nation for Iranians' "mobilized efforts" and "spirit of solidarity" in their cooperation with the government-led relief process.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was addressing Iran's political elite as well as ambassadors from Muslim countries in the capital Tehran March 3, in a traditional speech for the anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad’s first revelation. "There is still a lot more to be done to alleviate the pains of the flood-stricken," Khamenei told his audience, adding, "I have stressed to the authorities that the main task is reconstruction. … The damage must be compensated for."
A day earlier, Khamenei told top political and military officials that lessons must be learned from the devastating floods, saying, “The damage should have been predicted in advance and pre-emptive measure should have been taken.” He added that the floods “should be seen as a lesson so that all different aspects will be taken into consideration in various future projects such as the construction of dams, roads and railways as well as urban development.” Of note, the past few days saw a clash between President Hassan Rouhani and IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari over the latter’s blowing up of some roads in northern Iran to aid the removal of floodwaters.
Meanwhile, the devastation in affected areas continues, especially the two towns of Ma'moulan and Poldokhtar in the western Lorestan province, where dramatic scenes of houses being completely washed away have become commonplace.
According to Ma'moulan's Friday prayer leader, there is no word on the fate of at least 60 villages. "Some have had no food for 72 hours. There were promises of a makeshift hospital, but nothing has been done. There is no sign of relief workers," he said.
In nearby Poldokhtar, the situation is equally alarming. The town's representative in the Iranian Parliament says 20 local villages have been annihilated. Some 700 houses have been buried entirely by mudslides, food delivery has been sluggish and the only open bakery can't meet the overwhelming demand. A total of 15,000 people are reported to have been displaced, many of them seeking shelter in the mountains.
Public fury at the slow and impeded relief work has been expressed in many ways. Videos of emotional outbursts have gone viral in which some vent their anger at officials. Mohsen Rezaee, the secretary of Iran's powerful Expediency Council who hails from a subgroup of the Lors, was escorted by several body guards as he visited an affected village in Lorestan. He was not a welcome guest. "What are you looking for? Are you here for photos? Get out," shouted one villager.
Relief operations have been plagued by blame, denial and political rivalry between moderates and hard-liners. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has accused the Rouhani government of failing the flood-stricken, a charge the president's cultural adviser has dismissed. The IRGC itself has faced accusations of using violence in forcibly evacuating villages. The military organization denied the allegation.
But not all criticism has been directed toward domestic players. Iran's foreign minister once again took to Twitter to lash out at the US government for allegedly slowing down the delivery of much-needed aid and waging "economic terrorism" against Iranians. Mohammad Javad Zarif was responding to his US counterpart Mike Pompeo, who claimed earlier that Washington was ready to assist the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which would serve as an intermediary for aid to the Iranian Red Crescent.
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