Iran’s Foreign Ministry accused the Trump administration on Tuesday of blocking efforts to aid Iranian victims of calamitous floods through “inhumane and cruel” restrictions imposed by renewed American banking sanctions on the country.
The State Department denied the allegation, asserting that the United States stood ready to help. It said a botched response to the flooding by the Iranian government had contributed to the disaster.
The acerbic exchange came against the backdrop of what is shaping up to be some of the worst flooding to strike Iran since the Islamic revolution 40 years ago.
Floods have afflicted at least 26 of Iran’s 31 provinces over the past two weeks, states of emergency have been declared in several provinces, at least 47 people have been killed and tens of thousands have been evacuated, state media have reported.
The actual extent of the disaster has been difficult to ascertain because the Tehran government has not let foreign journalists visit stricken areas. But state television and Iran’s news media have provided images that show inundated villages and offered accounts of survivors on rooftops awaiting rescue.
Nonofficial Iranian accounts on social media and reports elsewhere suggest many Iranians are outraged over what they see as a bungled government response.
A spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Bahram Qasemi, sought on Tuesday to shift at least part of the blame to the United States, which under President Trump reimposed economic sanctions on Iran after having repudiated the nuclear agreement with Tehran nearly a year ago.
Mr. Qasemi said banking restrictions, an important component of the sanctions, had effectively impeded international aid groups like the Red Cross from sending assistance to victims.
“Normally, all banking systems will not be locked even in difficult and emergency conditions,” Mr. Qasemi said in remarks quoted by the official Islamic Republic News Agency. He said the United States, “in an inhumane and cruel approach, has blocked all humanitarian assistance to flood-hit people.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a leading advocate of the Trump administration’s renewed sanctions on Iran, rejected the Iranian assertions in a statement posted on the State Department website.
“These floods once again show the level of Iranian regime mismanagement in urban planning and in emergency preparedness,” Mr. Pompeo said. “The regime blames outside entities when, in fact, it is their mismanagement that has led to this disaster.”
He said the United States stood “ready to assist and contribute to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which would then direct the money through the Iranian Red Crescent for relief.”
The administration has said the sanctions are not intended to hurt ordinary Iranians. But many foreign banks and other businesses are now reluctant to deal with Iran, partly over fears of inadvertently violating American prohibitions.
Iranians have complained that the sanctions have made it difficult if not impossible to obtain imported medicines, for example.
The floods have emerged as a new political and economic liability for President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, who has been under increased pressure for having negotiated the nuclear agreement renounced by Mr. Trump. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has said the nuclear agreement reinforced his view that the Americans are treacherous.
Henry Rome, an analyst at the Eurasia Group, a Washington-based political-risk consultancy, said the flooding would press Mr. Rouhani to dismiss his interior minister and other officials deemed responsible for mishandling the response.
“The government’s overall reaction will further erode public confidence in its ability to manage crises and exacerbate the impact of existing U.S. sanctions,” Mr. Rome said in an emailed update to clients.