Thomas Erdbrink’s article ‘The West’s Stalwart ally in the war on drugs: Iran (Yes, that Iran)’ presents a dangerously monolithic picture of what is a multicolored and multi-faceted issue.
In his article, the Iranian general and his troops are fighting the good fight to protect Europe and the rest of the world from the horde of drug smugglers attempting to endanger our children.
Well, it is not quite that simple, as this Bloomberg article from March points out:
“An Iranian general was designated a narcotics trafficker by the U.S. Treasury Department, which froze any assets he may have in the U.S.
The Treasury identified the general as Gholamreza Baghbani of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force. The unit’s involvement in drug trafficking “is done as part of a broader scheme to support terrorism,” according to a statement by Undersecretary of the Treasury David Cohen.”
It is not just the US Treasury that has issues with Iran’s ‘phony war on drugs’.
Human Rights Watch and Harm Reduction International have been extremely critical of the Iranian’s strategy…
Iran’s judicial and legal system systematically violates the human rights of accused drug offenders, in particular their right to a fair trial, resulting in numerous death sentences in violation of international law, Human Rights Watch and HRI said.
“In reality, Iran’s drug enforcement programs increase its capacity to arrest alleged drug offenders,” said Rebecca Schleifer [advocacy director of the Health and Human Rights Division at Human Rights Watch]. “They make it easier to prosecute alleged offenders based on unfair trials, and even apply the death sentence under the draconian drug laws of Iran’s revolutionary courts.”
Iran’s anti-narcotics law imposes a mandatory death sentence for manufacturing, trafficking, possession, or trade of 5 kilograms of opium and other specified drugs, and 30 grams of heroin, morphine, or specified synthetic and non-medical psychotropic drugs, such as methamphetamines.
Although domestic and international law say that all death sentences should be subject to appeal, Iran has apparently limited appeals in these cases. On October 11, 2010, Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejei announced that in an effort to speed up the prosecution of drug offenses, certain trafficking cases would be referred to his office.
The New York Times piece tangentially references the human rights issue, somehow justifying the matter as not being the fault of the police force…
“Mr. De Leo, who is one of the very few Westerners in Iran in direct, daily contact with top law enforcement officials, said his office was under pressure from Western activist groups like Human Rights Watch, which have expressed alarm over the sharp increase in hangings of convicted drug dealers.
Hundreds have been executed in recent years, making Iran the second leading country in the world in death sentences, after China. Mr. De Leo said that he, too, was bothered by the increase in executions, but that the punishments were meted out by Iran’s judiciary, not by its police force.”
There also appears to be a veiled threat lurking within the New York Times article.
General Moayedi said that he did not concern himself with politics, and that in any case he considered the fight against drugs to be a religious duty.
“But,” he said, “imagine if we just let all those drugs flow freely through our country, toward the West. I guess then the world would understand what we have been doing here for all these years.”
This would not be the first time such a threat has been made by the Iranians.
In this interview with Yury Fedotov of the UNODC, that concern is once again patently evident.
“If we stop international assistance, Iran might open channels for drug-trafficking,” – interview with Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Yury Fedotov.
The message is simple: “Be nice to us, or we will flood Europe with drugs.”
And despite this message emanating from different sources from within Iran, the Noble Peace prize winners (the EU) continue to cling on to this cooperation – at all costs (human rights/executions etc).
(Meanwhile, the plan by a European parliament delegation to visit Iran next week, referenced in my last post, has hit a brick wall http://www.ejpress.org/article/news/western_europe/62461. From reports I’ve seen, their itinerary apparently includes a pat on the Iranian’s back about the drug issue.)
But the double game the Iranian regime plays with this phony war goes deeper than threatening the West. Indeed the NYT’s monolithic picture receives its full dose of color in this Huffington Post piece. Chris DeVito notes that:
“Further evidence of regime complicity in the drug trade was released to the public in 2009 when a State Department cable from Embassy Baku in Azerbaijan revealed that the regime was directly responsible for increasing flows of opiates through that country. So while the regime has legitimate concerns when it comes to the prevalence of opiates in the country, it’s clearly playing a double game.”
The police of the Islamic Republic of Iran, glorified in Erdbrink’s piece, are the same police who abuse and oppress the women of Iran. The same police who so violently helped put down the democracy protests in 2009. The same police who keep the opposition leaders under house arrest, and undermine the most basic rights of the Iranian people on a daily basis.
Erdbrink’s piece is a whitewash. It is a fantasy. A boring, colorless, inaccurate fantasy; but still a fantasy. The Islamic Republic of Iran, far from saving the world from narcotics, is helping itself while continuing to threaten the world. From the New York Times, more nuance is expected.
Oh, and by the way: he forgot to mention that the most senior figures responsible for Iran’s phony drug war – Interior Minister Najjar and Law Enforcement Forces chief Moghadam – are sanctioned by the US and EU. Trivial matter.