06/05/2006, 00.00
IRAN

Iran's new threat against Europe: drug trafficking

by Dariush Mirzai
Iranian authorities warn that if the West continues to threaten Tehran's nuclear programme, Iran might stop fighting drug smuggling.

Tehran (AsiaNews) – Dori Najafabadi, once head of Iran's secret services under former President Khatami and currently Iran's Attorney General and a close ally to Supreme Leader Khamenei, is quoted in conservative newspaper Resalat as saying that if "Western states continue their pressures on Iran over its nuclear programme, Iran can allow the transit of drugs and narcotics through its waters and other areas." This threat echoes a recent statement made by Fada Hossein Maleki, chairman of Iran's Drug Control Agency, who said that "[i]f Iran wanted to, it could end its barriers to the drug traffic and thus allow it to flood the West," as quoted in Rooz Online (May 30).

This is not the first provocation that Iranian authorities shamelessly make. They are in fact used to alternating threats to pledges of cooperation in order to increase their importance.  Iran has played the same card whenever it has stressed its influence in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Lebanon and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. But this is dangerous game since it confirms Iran's rogue state's status not only in the eyes of Bush's friends but also among moderate European governments.

When it comes to drug trafficking Iran has so far played a positive role, cooperating with the international community in an attempt to stop or at least slow down drug trafficking from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Cooperation is carried out through the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime or UNODC, which has a bureau in Tehran as well as in countries with which Iran has poor relations like the United Kingdom.

Iran has been assisted in fighting drug trafficking but has also paid a heavy price. Since 1979 the Islamic Republic has said that it has suffered the loss of 3,500 'martyrs' in the war on drugs. Yet this has not just been a 'gift' to the West.

Tehran has carried out military operations against drug smugglers in areas where anti-regime groups (representing dissident religious or ethnic minorities) have been fighting the central government and used drug sales to finance their operations.

What is more, drug addiction has become a serious and growing problem in Iran itself, one that affects both rich and poor, government officials as well as jobless and desperate youth. In a country where corruption and trafficking of all sorts are rampant, drug trafficking has enriched a few Iranians close to the regime.

Cynicism and domestic interests thus explain why Attorney General Dori Najafabadi is not that concerned of possible consequences to his provocative statement. They also explain why he singled out maritime as opposed to overland routes for his statement illustrates the absence of a state based on the rule of law and the extremism of its ruling elites.

However, his words pose a danger to Iran itself for they can be seen as a reminder of the country's ambitions and role in the region, for better or worse.

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