Has Iran Really Been Left to Fight Its Drug War Alone?

UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov being shown illicit narcotics seized by Iranian authorities

Recent claims by Iran's interior minister that his country is conducting counter-narcotics operations without outside help run counter to an overwhelming body of evidence suggesting otherwise.

Speaking to PressTV at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli declared that Iran has "seen no kind of cooperation from the UN or other countries [in the fight against drug smuggling]."

Rahmani Fazli added that sanctions imposed against Iran were hindering the acquisition of equipment used in counter-narcotics operations. 

The comments are curious to say the least, particularly considering that the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov, carried out an official visit to Iran just last month. What's more, the visit wasn't just out of diplomatic necessity; this was for Fedotov to convey the "UNODC's willingness to further strengthen its cooperation with the Government of Iran," and to serve as a run up to the launch of a new UNODC Iran Country Partnership Program that will begin in March and last until 2019. 

Fedotov noted the difficulty that sanctions present in terms of providing counter-narcotics equipment to Iran, but said that efforts are being made to ensure this can ultimately be facilitated without circumventing them, reported Fars News Agency.

In light of the efforts being made by the UNODC to aid anti-drugs operations in Iran -- one of the principal transit routes for Afghan heroin and opium -- why would Rahmani Fazli claim his country has "seen no kind of cooperation"? 

This could of course just be media misrepresentation of what he said. Or, this is perhaps a shrewd attempt at upping the pressure on easing Western sanctions and ensuring Iran remains a key beneficiary of counter-narcotics aid. 

As Reprieve highlighted in a report at the end of 2014, a number of European countries have helped fund Iran's anti-drugs operations through the UNODC, indirectly fueling executions for drug offenses. Since 1979, 10,000 people have executed for drug-related crimes, with 367 executions carried out last year.

Human Rights Watch, Reprieve and a number of other organizations, have called on the UNODC to remove all funding from Iran until they abolish the death penalty for drug crimes. The UNODC has ignored this, despite Iran’s actions going against their own human rights guidance.