UPDATE 1840 GMT: US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland has said: "Americans wishing to provide humanitarian assistance to Iranians during this time may donate food and medicine without obtaining an Iranian transactions regulations license." The US Government has also offered assistance to Iran for earthquake victims, but Iran has indicated that it will not take aid from foreign governments or organisations.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation is holding an emergency summit today in Saudi Arabia on the continuing bloodshed in Syria, Saudi Arabia.
As the days pass, it seems ever more likely that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will not be able to turn the tide of the protests and the war being waged against him by the Free Syria Army. At the same time, it seems likely that the deaths will continue and may increase until the day he is deposed. In such circumstances, any collective move by the OIC to deprive Assad of critical support by Muslim countries could save lives by hastening his departure.
The problem is that the only Muslim country that supports Syria and that holds any sway over Assad, Iran, seems unwilling to accept the demands of other OIC members. The summit does not seem like a place where this could be accomplished, while bashing Iran for supporting the Syrian regime risks hypocrisy --- after all, Saudi Arabia directly helped Bahrain's leaders in their attempt to suppress the reform movement. Then there is this question: how many Islamic countries have come forward to condemn the violence and abuses by the Free Syrian Army?
Here's an idea: why doesn't the summit --- on the sidelines if you will --- unite in breaking sanctions on Iran for just a few days to get some much-needed humanitarian supplies to the country after this weekend's earthquakes? Maybe that would sway the Islamic Republic, represented by President Ahmadinejad at the summit, to reconsider its stance regarding Syria?
That's not such a ludicruous idea. Even President George W. Bush offered assistance to Iran in 2003 despite the sanctions when the horrific Bam earthquake struck - assistance that was later accepted and brought some warming in US-Iran relations. Maybe if the OIC tried to defuse the disagreements between its members that oppose Assad and Iran by offering assistance to Iran regardless of the sanctions, Iran would relent.
Afterall, if President Bush - reviled in the Islamic world and widely seen by many Muslims as anti-Islam - can offer Iran assistance during a time of tragedy, why can't Iran's Muslim neighbors and brothers? Wouldn't be "Islamic" to forget for a minute that the government of Iran may have its hands soaked in blood, but the people of Iran don't? It's Ramadan - a month of prayer, forgiveness and utmost importance for all Muslims - whether they're Shia or Sunni. Maybe a quid-pro-quo between Muslims here could help the situation by both getting much needed help to the victims of Iran's tragedy, but finally bring an end to the apocalypse that's been raging across Syria, leaving Syrian children, destitute, orphaned and dead by the thousands.
But we know that is probably not going to happen. The truth is bleak and depressing.
The only use Islam has for most OIC members is as a justification for oppression. Oppression against women. Oppression against religious minorities. And oppression against dissent. To hope that the OIC would join hands to help the victims of Iran's earthquakes is just as fruitless as it is to hope that Iran would stop supporting the slaughter of innocent Syrians by President Assad and his political allies.
Islam's more peaceful values - values that call for brotherhood, that promote helping those in need and advises offering assistance to those who are worse off than you are - are only screamed as slogans when Muslims feel threatened by non-Muslims, not when they are the ones threatening each other.