Iranian authorities have offered to send emergency aid to the United States in the wake of Hurricane Sandy which ravaged New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and other parts of the east coast this past week.
“We are ready to help the flood-stricken people of America,” Mahmud Mozaffar, who leads Iran’s Red Crescent Organization, told the semiofficial Fars News Agency. “If American authorities agree, we can send our rescuers with equipment and tools to American cities in the shortest period of time.”
While the Red Crescent Organization is experienced in providing immediate assistance following disasters, acting as the Iranian version of the Red Cross, it has close ties to the Iranian government. According to documents released by WikiLeaks, U.S. officials believe that some Red Crescent employees act as spies while in foreign countries.
While it may be surprising for some that Iran would make such a gesture, it is not unheard of for the United States and Iran to cooperate in situations where natural disasters have befallen their countries. In 2003, the United States sent a C-130 military transport plane, rescue team, and an ambulance to the southeast city of Bam where 25,000 people died after a devastating earthquake. In August of this past year, the United States again offered humanitarian services when more than 300 people were killed in earthquakes in the northwestern part of the country (this offer was denied by Iranian authorities).
The United States and Iran have cut off their diplomatic relations since 1979 when Iranian revolutionaries raided the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. However, as noted above, natural disasters have sometimes been an opportunity for the two countries to open the lines of communication. Do you think that U.S. authorities should acknowledge the offer from Iran? Flatly reject it? Is this an opportunity to improve diplomatic relations between the two nations?