The reality is that the illegal drug trafficking has become one of the main kinds of transnational organized crime activities and keeps threatening to the future of the world. The drug trade profit is directed to fund other spheres of the international organized crime activities, in particular, the terrorism.
The security in the countries of Central Asia, Caspian Basin and South Caucasus is a problem considered by quite a number of international institutions, including CIS, SCO, CSTO - the organizations that treat the drug trafficking as a first-priority issue and consider the regional cooperation and common actions as an effective and productive way to fight the drug industry.
Iran has the status of an observer at Shanghai Cooperation Organization that, in 2006, announced the plans of counteraction to the international drug mafia as the financial basis of the global terrorism.
Within SCO, Iran’s strategy supposes development of the regional cooperation for drug control, first of all, with Russia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The leaders of this country willingly intensify the special operational cooperation of the bodies fighting the illegal drug trafficking by providing them with the information and experience they possess.
Iran is the world’s number one in fighting drug trafficking
The border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan is now an area free of illegal migration, arms- and drug-trafficking; so it is said in the UN World Drug Report. In terms of geography, Iran is in a transit passage between the Afghan producers of raw opium and its European consumers. Over USD 800 mln. are spent to the drug control in Iran every year. Within this Iranian year (according to the national calendar, 21 March is the last day of 1390), USD600 mln. have been assigned just to close the eastern frontiers with Afghanistan and Pakistan. Meanwhile, the international organizations support Iran’s war on this great evil only with about USD15 mln.
Hussein Zulfugari, Frontier Police Commander of the Islam Republic, stresses that the investment in the anti-drug program could have been directed to the improvements and developments in the country. However, Teheran clearly realizes the seriousness of the threat to the national security posed by the drug evil. Anyway, Iran trying to prevent drug trafficking through its territory does a lot of good to other countries - neighboring Russia, United Europe and the whole world.
If Iran gave up this costly program, the wave of drugs would grow by many times. The efficiency of its anti-drug actions is very high. For example, while the Russian law-enforcement agencies manage to withdraw from commerce about 4 % of the heroin and opiate substances brought to the country, Iran has this coefficient at 33 %. UN considers this country as an important partner on the antidrug track and Iran has kept lead for many years here. Its share is 80 % of opium and 40 % of morphine confiscated in the world. Over recent five years, 600 tons of smuggled drugs were seized every year; 75 % was opium and heroin. Over last thirty years, over 4 thousand policemen have been killed and 12 thousand have been wounded on this battlefront.
Fortifications on iranian-afghan Border
The Afghan internal crisis remains a painful and very vulnerable point of the regional security; it brings threats and challenges, first of all, for the adjacent states. The border between Iran and Afghanistan is 936 km. Despite the titanic efforts of the Iranian authorities, the country is still a major transit point on the drug route from Afghanistan to Europe and Gulf Countries.
Afghanistan produces phenomenal amounts of opiates, first of all, opium and heroin, and up to 3.5 thsd. tons of hashish every year. These enormous volumes reduce considerably when passing the Iranian-Afghan border, where about 70 tons are confiscated every year.
Being greatly concerned about the security of its eastern frontiers, Iran signed an agreement with Afghanistan on infrastructure development of the state border. But it is only Iranian party who actually equips the frontier. Over recent years, more than 700 km of ditches have been dug there; lengthy near-border fortifications, including barbed-wire barriers and concrete fences, have been constructed; thousands of security agents have been deployed there. All these measures have visually narrowed the flow of the Afghan heroin through Iran’s territory. The drug dealers responded by redirecting the flows: they focused on the northern ways, the trafficking through Russia (and the Iranians had warned Moscow about it).
Another nuance: the drug transit now bypasses a 700-km dam constructed by Iran: the dam crossing, by water too, Strait of Ormuz and – further - the southern territories near the Pakistan border with their instable situation.
Black hole in Southern Border
The lengthy segment of the border between the Afghan province of Nimroz and Iran and Pakistan has no army troops deployed and no protection maintained there. This area offers perfect conditions for smugglers’ free rein and for the work of an active uncontrolled logistic hub transferring drugs and weapons to the adjacent countries. This is the segment of the Afghan frontier where the Iranian militaries have to conduct true battles against both smugglers and, often, with Taliban armed units that still maintain much influence there and wouldn’t mind to profit from drug trafficking to Iran.
The gunmen exact a tithe from the peasants in the controlled territories – 10 % of the poppy harvest used to produce drugs. At first, the Taliban gunmen store the collected opium, then they turn the raw poppy into heroin and bring it out of the country via the smuggling networks. The drug smuggling is known to be the business area of a powerful organized-crime concern, mafia networks; most profit of this criminal business stays with them.
Iran’s counteracting the Afghan drug threat often leads to diplomatic scandals with Official Kabul. Last February, the Afghan ministry of foreign affairs denounced the death of five Afghans in the Iranian territory, near the Afghan border; an official protest note was handed to the ambassador of the neighboring country. The Afghans were fired upon as they attempted to illegally enter the Iranian territory that already accommodated two million refugees then. But border is border, anything is possible there.
From the side of Pakistan, this segment of the Iranian frontier is subjected to both a drug danger and quite a real military threat from the gunmen of the radical Sunni military group “Jundallah” (Allah Warriors). This is the group responsible for most terrorist attacks in the south-eastern provinces of the country.
Iranian drug flying Carpet
Today Afghanistan produces heroine twice as much as the whole world did ten years ago. Afghan-related criminal groups supply about 540 tons of opiates to Russia every year. Viktor Ivanov, Head of the Federal Drug Control Service, compares Afghanistan to a “high-capacity collider that bombards Russia, the countries of Central Asia and – via the Balkan route – EU”. According to some statistics, the annual income from the Afghan drug trade is USD20 bln. Therewith, the peasants who grow up the poppy get a just little part of this breathtaking sum.
Some days ago, Abdul Hadi Argandival, Afghan Minister of Economic Affairs, said that 36 % of the Afghanistan population live below the poverty line and the situation is getting worse. In the near-term outlook, famine may strike the country. According to the international organizations, even now 54 % of the Afghan children below 5 years old suffer from malnutrition.
Meanwhile, the areas of drug crops grow and it means that the global community fails to control the situation with drugs in this country. Today, the USA, NATO and their allied states are trying to influence the way Afghanistan goes but there is no one who could claim responsibility for the future of this country.
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) does not conduct any programs against drug production or drug trade; UN Mandate do not touch upon this issue either; the Security Council that is to consider more or less serious threats to the global community has not received any relevant proposals. Consequently, Afghanistan has become notorious as the world’s biggest drug-production monopolist.
The national government limits itself with inefficient, though, in essence, helpful measures. For example, the peasants are offered with saffron as a poppy alternative, able to be successfully cultivated in the southern province of Gilmend that is currently the global leader in opium production. The local authorities have taught almost 400 peasants how to farm saffron and they are willing to go on with this course. Upon the training complete, the peasants are ready to turn to the new crop if it brings good profit. According to the Afghan agrotechnicians, 0.4 ha can yield 1kg of saffron which market value is about USD2 thsd. Besides the saffron, some other crops are offered to cultivate. But can they be a worthy competitor to the poppy?
Surely, such measures are far from being adequate and they cannot push back the drug business. It is obvious that it is the time when the international community should turn to establishing a system of responsibilities for elimination of such an enormous drug-producing mechanism as seen in Afghanistan.
And the USA does not seem so uninvolved in the problems with the Afghan opium and hashish. Here is just one story: several days ago the American authorities detected an international opium supply chain between Iran and the USA that was organized by local (American) sellers of Persian carpets. Due to a special operation by FBI, US Drug Control Department, NYC police and German law-enforcement agencies, it was revealed that the carpets imported from Iran had drugs hidden inside them. The opium was bought from nomads near the Afghan-Iranian border. The drugs were hidden in the carpets in the Iranian town of Mashadu and then brought by trucks to Hamburg, Germany. After that they were distributed to New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC and other cities. Well, Americans pay heroin death toll too.
Shouldn’t the world unite to stop the Afghan drug collider now?