Thursday, March 13, 2008

Iran and Disaster Relief in Case of Military Strike

Our first meeting in Iran on February 27 was with the Iranian Red Crescent Society, a disaster relief organization similar to the International Red Cross. They have 16 medical centers in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

During the 1990s, Iran hosted the most refugees in the world, including more than two million Afghan refugees and more than a million Iraqi refugees.

The Iranian Red Crescent Society coordinated efforts following the Bam earthquake, which hit on December 26, 2003 at a magnitude of 6.5+. In talks, I often tell the story about Mercy Corps obtaining a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in the Department of Treasury to help with relief efforts in the year following the Bam earthquake. After the first year expired, Mercy Corps applied for an extension of its OFAC license, but was denied and forced to leave within 30 days. Mercy Corps is precisely the humanitarian emissary that the U.S. should want as its representative in Iran.

Today, the Iranian Red Crescent Society is seeking to have a joint project to establish a hospital on the Iran/Iraq border to provide special and emergency services for those inured in explosions, which might an include an orthopedic center for amputees.

At the end of the meeting, I asked whether the Iranian Red Crescent Society has prepared any contingency plans in case of a U.S. strike on Iran. The initial response I received from the Director General Dr. Seyed Hadi Samaei was that “these are political matters and we don’t pay attention.” But a young women intimately involved in relief efforts chimed in to say that they “have contingency plans in case of disasters in major population centers already in place,” implying that Red Crescent Society is indeed prepared for a disaster relief in case of a military strike.

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