Accessibility links

Breaking News

Rouhani, Guard Commander Belittle Each Other Over Tackling Flood Crisis

Iranian President Hassan Rohani (L) is seen in a helicopter inspecting the flood-affected villages in Golestan province, March 27, 2019
Iranian President Hassan Rohani (L) is seen in a helicopter inspecting the flood-affected villages in Golestan province, March 27, 2019

President Hassan Rouhani and IRGC Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari have been trading accusations and counter-accusations regarding each other's ability to solve the problems caused by floods across the country.

Iranian state TV's news channel on March 29 several times aired a video that showed Rouhani criticizing the IRGC Commander in Chief, albeit without naming him, for ordering demolition of a railway in norther Iran to let flood water run from one side to another.

He said it was useless as it made no difference in the situation of flood hit areas in Aq Qala and Gomishan on both sides of the track in Golestan Province.

Engineered explosions were carried out at three points along the track on March 24. IRGC's former commander, Mohsen Rezai called it "The explosion of hope." Three days later, IRGC's current commander Jafari ordered other explosions to demolish a road near Gomishan to let flood water pour into the Caspian Sea.

The two operations have been portrayed by IRGC affiliated media outlets as an evidence of IRGC commanders' "Jihadist-Style Management." Ironically, the railways between the two towns was constructed by IRGC mindless of the fact that it might block the flow of occasional floods in the region.

An excavator left in flood water after railway was demolished by IRGC

​The railway project became controversial as it was inaugurated twice, once in 2013 by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and again in 2013 by Rouhani after he got elected. The two presidents did not even agree on the length of the track. One said it was 80 kilometers long, and the other said it was 150 kilometers. Ironically, the actual length of the track is 129 kilometers!

IRGC's financial conglomerate Khatam Ol-Anbia, took pride in having completed the project within a year. IRGC Public Relations manager Ramezan Sharif, called the project "a turning point in relations between IRGC and the government." In fact, the project had taken some 6 year to be completed and IRGC was involved in it for two and a half years.

The sketch in the tweet below shows the points where IRGC used explosives to open an outlet for flood waters. As can be seen, the railroad simply stood between urban areas and the Caspian Sea.

The IRGC officially took pride for constructing the problematic railway, and also for demolishing it. This comes while, MP for Gorgan, Noormohammad Torbatinejad, has criticized the project for not leaving outlets for flood water to run underneath the tracks.

Criticizing the demolition by IRGC, Rouhani said at a crisis management meeting on March 29 that he flew over the region and found out that "The explosions did not make any difference in the situation. It was like taking water from one bowl and pouring it into another."

In a video released on Twitter on March 30, IRGC Commander Jafari called Rouhani's comment "an accusation," and charged that government bodies have failed to help as much as the IRGC, adding that further explosions are under way and IRGC has been trying to help.

The video in the tweet below shows one of the points where IRGC demolished the railroad, and water flowing out.

Another railway projects constructed in collaboration with IRGC is the one that links Iran to Turkmenistan in the same region. It has turned out to be problematic too, because of technical reasons that dramatically slows down traffic along the tracks and has caused dissatisfaction among businessmen who use the track for import-export purposes. So, the government had to appropriate another 220 billion rials ($50 million based on official rate) to sort out the problems. However, corrections on the route have not started yet.

Problems on this route has caused losses particularly to Iranian fruit exporters.

Meanwhile, the railroad to Kazakhstan has not become operational as negotiations about tariffs with Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan have failed.

The track was supposed to facilitate transiting 10 million tons of goods per year between the three countries. During the past year, Iran has shipped 50 thousand tons, equal to half a percent of the projected figure.

The head of the Chamber of Commerce in Gorgan told reporters that the failure has prompted Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan to look for alternative routes.

However, using usual Islamic Republic official jargon, the official attributed the problem to "hidden foreign hands," a cliché' popular among Iranian officials when they cannot explain their own incapability in solving the country's ordinary problems.