Drug Smuggling and Narco-Terrorism in Iraq

Iraq’s parliament accepted the resignation of speaker Mahmoud Mashhadani on Tuesday, and then promptly voted on a bill that provides a legal framework for 4000 British troops and a few other small multinational contingents to operate in Iraq until this summer, when they likely will leave.

Aljazeera English reports on the Iraqi drug smugglers moving Afghanistan’s drugs from Iran into the Gulf and Europe. The reports says the Afghans produce 8200 tons of heroin every year. 2500 of that goes into Iran. Iranians consume 500 tons, and the Islamic Republic’s security officials confiscate 500 tons. The remaining 1500 tons goes to Iraq, where 500 tons are consumed or intercepted. Some 1000 tons is then shipped to Europe and the Gulf.

It has been alleged that some of these drugs are smuggled by the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) into Turkey for transshipment to Europe, so that the Afghanistan heroin moving through Iraq is helping fuel terrorism in eastern Anatolia.

Given the rising drug problems of soldiers in the Iraqi army, if they turn from prescription drugs to Afghan heroin, it could affect the ability of the Iraqi state to keep order in the country.

Aljazeera English then follows the Iraqi drug smuggling operation from Amara to Samawa and thence across the border to Saudi Arabia. The reporter alleges that camels are being used as involuntary mules, with the drugs surgically inserted in their humps!

The report says that Iraqi authorities are not unduly concerned about the drug smuggling, since Iraq is not for the most part a consuming nation. But the trade must be worth billions of dollars a year, and it is likely going not just to criminal elements but to militias such as the Mahdi Army, thus strengthening a challenger to the state.

Given what has happened to poor Mexico, where 4000 people were killed in drug-related violence last year and major cities such as Tijuana and Juarez are being turned into economic ghost towns, the danger to Iraq of narco-terrorism is great. Ironically, the Mexican drug-smuggling gangs are adopting some of their repertoires of violence from what they have seen on t.v. of Iraqi insurgents!