They say a news event has a three-day lifespan. The regime in Tehran is counting on such a theory to have the international community move on after the recent earthquake that shook western Iran. Each passing day further reveals the scope of this vast catastrophe.
“More than 1,000 people have lost their lives,” Iranian MP Ahmad Safari said to the official ILNA news agency 72 hours after the quake. “I went to a village where they said they pulled 20 corpses from under the rubble. They were not even counted in the death toll. 70 people died just in one alley of the town of Sarpol-e Zahab. Another 250 were killed in the Mehr housing complex.”
Experts advised the government of former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-13) to build 25,000 homes under the Mehr blueprint. Ahmadinejad, however, ordered the construction of 1.5 million such units, raising questions of possible negligence in construction and lack of proper supervision.
While the ruling regime failed to provide any first aid relief, Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi made an early call asking supporters to rush to their compatriots in need.
“Just as opposed to the practices of the clerical regime, now is the time to show solidarity. Assisting and saving the victims of the earthquake is a sacred national duty,” she said.
The incoming statistics of this recent quake are devastating.
“There are still people stranded in villages where 90 percent of the homes are left destroyed. No official has visited these areas. The locals, along with their children, are forced to sleep the nights in their farm fields without any shelter,” a reported wired by the semi-official ISNA news agency reads.
Instead of focusing measures to rush aid for the victims, Iran’s regime imposed martial law in Sarpol-e Zahab, the epicenter of the earthquake.
Was such a catastrophe preventable? Is Iran the only country prone to earthquakes?
Japan has a history of earthquakes and thanks to technological advances we no longer witness skyrocketing number of casualties and damages.
Australia also experienced a powerful 7.0-magnitude earthquake on Tuesday that resulted in tsunami warnings. No casualties or major damages were reported.
Preventing quake damage is nothing out of the ordinary or impossible. A truly popular government allocating the necessary manpower, means and budget can do the job. Here is exactly where the problem lies in Iran.
On August 13th members of the Iran’s parliament unanimously adopted a 16-article bill providing around $600 million to further develop Iran’s ballistic missile program and additionally fund the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), especially the extraterritorial unit known as the Quds Force.
Iran’s five military entities enjoy a budget of $13.5 billion for the current Persian calendar year (March 2017 to March 2018), of which $7.4 billion belongs to the IRGC. This is a 24 percent increase from the last calendar year.
It is worth noting that the Iranian regime has a nearly $7 billion budget deficit, equaling to nearly half of its military budget.
Proper now would be to evaluate the money sent by the Iranian regime to Lebanon. There is actually no figure of Tehran’s financial support for the Lebanese Hezbollah.
While recent reports have placed this value at over $800 million, back in 2011 Al Arabiya Farsi shed further light in this regard.
“Hezbollah used to receive $350 million each year from Iran. In addition to Hezbollah’s own activities, this budget was used to provide for members’ salaries, the families of killed Hezbollah members, various projects in southern Lebanon and Beqaa, and bribing Lebanese political figures to back Hezbollah.”
One such $400 million construction project in Lebanon, including parks, was paid for completely by Iran. All the while millions in Iran remain under poor living conditions.
“As long as there is money in Iran, we will have money,” said Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, making it crystal clear how the terrorist-designated group’s entire budget is bankrolled by Tehran.
Deprived of this budget, 40 percent of the Iranian people are living in complete poverty. 13 million homeless in city outskirt slums. 14 million literally cannot pay for their daily meals.
State-affiliated websites in Iran report nearly 20,000 homes were completely destroyed in the recent quake. Whereas in Japan, simple homes made with a budget of $10,000 each, have proven to be earthquake-resistant.
If we take into consideration just the abovementioned $600 million, Iran’s government could have provided 60,000 such homes for victims of the past three major quakes across the country.
This includes 20,000 in Kermanshah province, the site of the recent quake designated as the most powerful in 2017 so far; another 20,000 for the victims of the 2012 East Azerbaijan quake in northeast Iran; and 20,000 more for the victims of the 2003 Bam quake that left tens of thousands of innocent people killed.
This is all aside from sitting on an ocean of 125 billion barrels of oil, 227 trillion cubic meters of gas and a daily revenue of $200 million from exporting oil.
The point is the solutions are out there. Iran, however, is ruled by a regime that could care less about its populace. For those sitting in Tehran, this is a recipe for disaster.
Mohammad Biranvand, another member of Iran’s parliament said, “Do you know that the people now trust athletes and celebrities more than they trust government institutions? All this indicates that the earthquake of distrust will be far more destructive than the recent earthquake.”
“Once the deal is decertified, and Congress appears to be on the brink of reapplying sanctions, that could change not only Iran’s calculus but also the European allies’ calculus,” said James Phillips, a Middle Eastern affairs expert at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation tank in an interview with CNBC.
The Trump Administration is raising the tempo on decertifying Iran over the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), envisaging a temporary relief of various sanctions imposed on Iran in return for a curb of this regime’s nuclear program.
According to Politico, Trump’s national security team has urged him unanimously to decertify the JCPOA prior to the October 15th deadline, while National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is brewing an inclusive Iran strategy, due October 31st, on escalating pressure against the regime.
Reports also indicate the White House has scheduled a major Iran speech by Trump on October 12th. This goes parallel to a Thursday night meeting with his military brass focusing on Iran and North Korea, where Trump spoke of “calm before the storm.”
Tough actions are also on schedule Friday against the Iran-offspring Lebanese Hezbollah, as part of a broader effort to make Tehran further feel the heat.
In response to Trump’s United Nations General Assembly speech, Tehran first attempted to lash back with strong remarks through its so-called “reformist” President Hassan Rouhani.
Iran “will not be the first country to violate the agreement, but it will respond decisively and resolutely to its violation by any party,” Rouhani said at his UNGA speech on September 20th.
Yet witnessing no backing down from Washington’s part, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has been seeking to calm tensions, resorting to all but begging the European Union for support.
“If Europe and Japan and Russia and China decided to go along with the U.S., then I think that will be the end of the deal. Europe should lead,” he said in an interview with Financial Times.
Following his New York tour and a series of media interviews, Zarif reportedly rushed to Oman asking the Sultanate to relay to Washington a new series of proposals blueprinted to avoid a faceoff over the JCPOA’s future.
Trump’s running concerns regarding the deal include:
“sunset clauses” that portray all Iran sanctions coming to an end in 10 to 30 years,
Tehran’s refusal to ratify and implement the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty’s Additional Protocol, allowing the regime to possibly maintain all options available to quickly boost the military aspect of its nuclear ambitions,
Iran has been carefully following the signs received from the Trump Administration in regards to its wide variety of bellicosities, and how the White House is not budging in the face of North Korea’s threats.
Realizing the going is getting tough, Tehran is reportedly loosening the rope and providing incentives previously thought to be red lines for the regime.
Seeking to continue various aspects of its nuclear program while offering guarantees not to design its ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warhead payloads.
Tehran has continuously kicked the can down the road on ratifying the Additional Protocol. This provides the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, “further inspection authority,” and enables the organization’s “inspectorate to provide assurance about both declared and possible undeclared activities…”
Tehran also seeks to suggest cooperating in the war against the so-called Islamic State and is seeking to separate Iran’s regional policies from its nuclear dossier. The West should be very aware in this regard and consider the issue as a leverage Iran is pursuing for its future Middle East endeavors.
All the while, key members of the Trump Administration are unifying their position on the JCPOA’s future. As mentioned above about the unanimous vote to decertify the deal before the October 15th deadline, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is reportedly seeking a new outlined approach enabling the US to remain in the deal while avoiding a recertification process every 90 days. This can allow the administration to begin allocating necessary focus and resources on Iran’s assets used to pursue its devastating policies.
“The Trump administration is already … imposing sanctions on companies linked to Iran’s ballistic missile program, its cyberattacks, and its terrorist-sponsoring Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). There is much more to be done on the targeted sanctions front, including designating the IRGC a terrorist organization. But there are also important steps that Trump can take on the ground in Syria and Iraq,” as explained in a recent Foreign Policy article.
This is specifically vital for Iran as the Guards have through the past four decades also usurped control over 40% of the country’s economy.
In regards to Iran’s economy, Europe is a major party and considered crucial for Tehran’s ruling elite. The new approach sought by the Trump Administration, however, has the potential of maintaining the Europeans, anxious to safeguard the JCPOA, in line with Washington’s efforts to confront Tehran’s destabilizing actions.
Following the JCPOA implementation Iran has signed numerous economic contracts with France’s Airbus, Renault and Total.
And yet, French President Emmanuel Macron has specifically mentioned his readiness to discuss future sanctions in response to Iran’s ballistic missile tests, the regime’s expanding reach across the Middle East and amending the JCPOA to improve conditions after its expiration in 2025.
“Just because we want to keep the JCPOA doesn’t mean we want to ignore the other concerns,” one European diplomat said to CNN.
Iran’s Raja News website wrote recently, “The European Union will never sacrifice economic ties with the US for relations with Iran.”
It is completely understandable how the JCPOA’s future has political impacts for Iran. There are times, however, that numbers transmit powerful messages.
No party in their right mind, including European states, Russia, China, India and all others involved in economic transactions with Tehran are willing to sacrifice their ties with the US’ $19 trillion economy for Iran’s $400 billion.