Despite access to new cash in the wake of President Obama’s Iran Deal, the mullahs aren’t using it to aid Iran’s storm-ravaged provinces. They’re busy shelling out for missiles.
In recent weeks, disastrous flash floods, avalanches, and dust storms have gripped the country’s south, including the provinces of Fars, Bushehr and 11 others.
The catastrophes coincided with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) launching sophisticated missiles during a three-day military exercise which began on Monday, Feb. 21, in Iran’s central desert. This missile launch was the fifth of its kind, and conducted in defiance of the United Nations resolution. The launches also came a day after it was revealed that U.S. senators were planning to introduce legislation imposing additional economic sanctions on Iran, proving that the mullahs could care less about the effects of their behavior. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke of these plans during a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference, according to Reuters. “I think it is now time for the Congress to take Iran on directly in terms of what they’ve done outside the nuclear program,”.Graham said.
The events reveal that the Iranian regime, despite having access to a vast new cash stream as a result of President Obama’s Iran Deal, nevertheless continues to prioritize illegal military activity over serving the needs of its people. Its refusal to render aid to its stricken provinces after devastating storms shows in stark terms how the Deal has been an unmitigated failure.
The natural disasters in the south are no ordinary storm aftermath. Heavy flooding has cut electricity supplies and water to thousands of people, destroying streets and houses. It has also ravaged roads, opened sinkholes, and collapsed bridges. Some 10,000 people have been left homeless.
“The torrential rain caused flooding across the south, from Khuzestan province on the Iraqi border, to Sistan-Baluchistan province on the border with Pakistan. Thousands fled villages downstream from dams, fearing collapses like (that) in Jiroft in the north, where at least five people (were) killed in avalanches over the past two weeks as up to two meters (more than six feet) of snow fell in the Zagros and Alborz mountains,” one news agency reported.
The flood has damaged more than 1,000 residential units, with 250 structures sustaining major damage. Residents have been severely exposed to contaminated water. The earthen dam of Bardsir collapsed and water ran into villages downstream. Despite a decade-long oil earnings bonanza, these disasters show that the government has neither constructed nor maintained necessary building infrastructure, which are in poor condition. Nor has civil defense been up to snuff: Flood advisories, watches, and patrol groups have not been present at the scene, either. The River Engineering and Flood Control Bureau held glossy meetings for public relations purposes, but did nothing of practical value to either prevent the disaster or render assistance afterward.
What’s more, they have done all they can to keep citizens in the dark about it. The government has broadcast plenty of news about the regime’s defiant missile launch, but either reduced or blacked out local news describing the extent of the storm damage, and in some cases censored news. A favored technique the regime has been to reduce Internet speeds to ensure that public exposure to the news is limited, and cannot spread. Iranian residents in the heavily damaged areas have since told the opposition press that they feel ignored by the authorities, with a dreadful sense that theirs is a government that does not carewhat happens to them or their flooded province.
And make no mistake, this is is an area that has suffered horrifically from natural disasters since the advent of the mullahs. These floods came just a year after a similar torrent in the same area left 280 people dead and caused millions of dollars in damage, with no precautionary plan in place. To view this from the eyes of the survivors still awaiting help, a look at the recent history they are aware of is important:
From January 5, 1987 through July 22, 2001, floods in different parts of Iran killed 1120 people, destroyed 10,000 homes, 10,000 miles of roads, 1,300 bridges and ruined 2,470 acres of agricultural land, at a cost of $1.7 billion in damage.
The UN Development Program (UNDP) office in Tehran has warned officials, repeatedly, that floods will continue to wreak havoc in the country, unless effective preparedness and preventive measures are undertaken soon. But no such measures have been taken by the government. The fate of the provinces will be little different from that of Tehran’s iconic 17-story Plasco tower, which collapsed into rubble last Jan. 19 as a deadly fire consumed it.
According to an Iranian opposition (PMOI/MEK) report, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, have neglected the poor economic conditions and quality of life of the people, yet they have poured billions of dollars into three wars in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen and now are steering billions more from in newly-released assets from President Obama’s Iran Deal into new military spending for missiles, rockets, ammunition and bombs. They also are using it in a massive exercise and drill now by the IRGC which pursues state-sponsored terrorism.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) offered enormous benefits for Iran’s economy and, as a result, provided substantial additional resources to the government of Iran. Now the question is, what did Tehran do with the money? Did they use it for protection from floods? They didn’t.
It demonstrates conclusively that the plunder of Iran’s wealth by the mullahs, who claim to be Muslim leaders, and who have hijacked the Iranian Revolution three decades ago have left almost nothing for the Iranian people. The tiny rich section of Tehran, which consists of mullahs and their families, have usurped the entire wealth of Iran. Many of them, such as the IRGC, have illegally expropriated the nation’s collective wealth for their personal benefit. For example, IRGC commanders have built dams on Iran’s rivers to direct water to their private plantations. Lake Urmia, in northwestern Iran, used to be the largest lake in the Middle East, and the sixth-largest saltwater lake on Earth before they appropriated it. It was once a major tourist attraction and a home to migratory birds but has since shrunk substantially and has fallen into a dramatic decline for some years after the IRGC got hold of it. The dried lakes and rivers that remain have caused substantial destructive changes to the environment since. Poor air, land, and water quality all have serious health effects including respiratory and eye diseases in the country.
Meanwhile, MEK reported that, residents of Ahvaz, in the capital of the oil-rich fields of Khuzestan province, have been protesting for six consecutive days in increasingly larger gatherings. These Iranian citizen protests are over dust storms, power failures and government mismanagement despite security forces declaring all demonstrations illegal.
President Rohani’s one-day visit to Ahvaz on Feb. 23 followed days of protests by residents blaming power cuts, dust pollution, and water-supply problems on government mismanagement. Rohani’s visit did not satisfy the protestors, they said Rohani’s promises, like the others, were hollow promises aiming to cool citizen anger. Considering the powder-keg nature of Iran’s society, his only concern was for his regime, worrying that the people’s exasperation and scattered protests may merge into a mass uprising similar to that of 2009. That’s little comfort to those afflicted by the natural disasters and the indifferent response.
For average Iranians, what, again, was good about this much-touted Iran Deal?
Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate and social media journalist seeking democracy for Iran and peace for the region.