Wikileaks Release of Secret Diplomatic Cables - The Drugs Round-Up

The reams of US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks offer a US view from embassies on the ground about drug trafficking in the middle east. Iran's role in drug production and trafficking Westwards is highlighted, as news comes today from the UNODC (UN Office of Drugs and Crime) of Iranian co-operation against drug trafficking on its Eastern frontier.

Update 7/12/10


(BBC News / Click headline for external link) 
Whilst the revelations may not be breaking news, they emphasise the importance and relevance of drugs for world governments.


Update 6/12/10


Previous news reported below:

Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan strengthen anti-drug trafficking initiative

US sees Iran as a large exporter of narcotics.

Drugs move west along the Afghanistan-Iran-Somalia-Yemen line, and up to Azerbaijan.

Karzai's brother widely understood to be a “corrupt drugs baron.”

--- (March 2009)

Baku, Azerbaijan, reports Iranian “regime-supportive financial and procurement activities, ” and “extensive and complex interconnection of Iranian figures and activities that reportedly support Iranian security organisations and regime figures... said to be significant actors in obtaining spare parts and equipment for the Revolutionary Guard, raising revenues and managing money for it and/or regime figures, or managing Iran-origin narcotics trafficking. ”

The cable then goes on to describe a handful of alleged Iranians working for the Iranian government in Baku, including Sabir Shaheen, “a well known mafia-like figure from Iranian Azerbaijan who reportedly acts as a ‘liaison’ between the Iranian and Russian/Azerbaijani narcotics traffickers. ”

The cable makes a note of Iran's high rates of heroin addiction, and that “heroin and other narcotics trafficking from Iran to Russia and Europe via Azerbaijan has skyrocketed over the last two years. ”

TalkingDrugs has previously reported on the Iranian regime's execution of drug traffickers, whilst the U. S. sees Iran as profiteering from the trade itself, with a view to targeting Egypt in the future (see below).

Another cable from Baku from June 2009, “Iran-Origin Heroin Seizures Continue Rise, ” reports a 'skyrocket' in Iran-origin 'fully processed in labs and ready for market' heroin seizures in Azerbaijan. “Iran-origin” refers to “heroin derived from Afghani and Pakistani Opium that entered Azerbaijan from Iran. ”

This comes as Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan promise today to co-ordinate efforts against drug trafficking with the UNODC, although there was no mention of the drugs moving towards Saudi Arabia or Azerbaijan.

The head of Minister of Counter Narcotics of Afghanistan, Mr. Zarar Ahmad Moqbel Osmani has previously been dismissed on corruption charges and his appointment to his current role was criticised by Western commentators.


Kuwait (February 2010)

Iran is again the focus of US criticism for its role in drugs production and trafficking. Cables hint at a connection between Iranian drugs and the financing of Yemenese rebels.

“Iran is involved, clearly, as a producer of drugs and a facilitator of transit along the Afghanistan-Iran-Somalia-Yemen pipeline. Now Iran is trying to expand its influence in Egypt, seeking to exploit poverty there and infiltrate the security services.”

The US embassy in Kuwait attributes the growing power of Houthis in Yemen to the drugs trade.

“Yemeni extremists are making money from the drug trade, moving narcotics into Saudi Arabia. ”

However the cables do clarify that any problems with Houthis in Yemen are less to blame on Iran and largely issues of corruption and Yemenese social and political governance.

Only a portion of the information recently disclosed to five international newspapers has currently been published. We'll update this story as more news becomes available.