Iran Rejects U.S. Aid Again
The government’s response to Iran’s twin earthquakes has sparked controversy both in Iran and in the international community. Members of parliament for Eastern and Western Azerbaijan Provinces blasted weak aid efforts and state media coverage of the disaster, saying relief did not begin for hours following the earthquakes and that TV coverage failed to report the true extent of destruction and number of casualties. Despite earlier rejections, Iran began allowing foreign aid into the country on Tuesday, but the following day an interior ministry official in charge of relief efforts rejected U.S. assistance, saying “We do not believe the U.S. put forward the offer in good faith.”
Several Iranian-American groups have expressed concern that Americans seeking to assist in the disaster relief will be hindered by U.S. sanctions against Iran. In response, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland announced that Americans can donate food and medicine at this time without special permission around sanctions. Still, several groups cautioned Iranian-Americans to rely on remittances, which are permitted under sanctions, to direct money to aid efforts until groups like the Red Cross and Red Crescent are certain of whether Iran will allow them to send help into the country.
Additionally, the Iranian Interior Ministry announced that two reformist political parties will be banned from participating in the country’s upcoming presidential elections. The Association of Combatant Clerics, which fielded Mehdi Karoubi in the 2009 presidential elections, and the Islamic Iran Participation Front, led in the past by former president Mohammad Khatami, will be barred from taking part in the 2013 elections. Both among Iran’s oldest political parties, the two had previously been barred following the 2009 election, with some of their leadership detained or put under house arrest.