Narco-Terror and the Middle East

This is an old writing of mine from 2007 I figured I would repost here.

Drugs and Terrorism are two elements of society that have been around since the dawn of man. Neither of these subjects needs any introduction as to their negative affects on society. Both have shown though history their destructive potential of our social fabric. However, it is not too often that the two are tied together in the media as being a joint problem for governments and societies to tackle in their effort to stabilize respective Spheres of Influence. Terrorist networks have utilized drug-trafficking and distribution as a method of facilitation for their activities for decades. What needs to be brought to our attention now is with this Global War on Terrorism waging around the world, Narco-Terror is affecting more governments and societies than just the traditional South American region.

Drugs and terrorism are very much linked and this is documented by numerous sources one of which was “the [1988] UN Convention Against Illicit Traffic In Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances [which] recognized the links between illicit drug traffic and other organized criminal activities which undermine the stability, security and legitimacy of sovereign states.” Drugs and the affects of the use and trafficking of drugs have eroded American society immensely. America, though is not the only nation which is troubled by such events and networks does seem to be the nation of greatest consumption. These drugs, if they are not produced primarily from the US must come from somewhere, and that somewhere is generally the Asian and South American regions. For at least the better part of the twentieth century Thailand and Afghanistan have been the large producers of heroin and its base compounds. South America seems to take the title of greatest Cocaine producer and seemingly the majority of marijuana production also.

Narcotics trafficking historically increases in areas of destabilization, with a focus on post-conflict regions. The two most notable target locations are Iraq and Afghanistan. In the early years after the US-led coalition invasion of Afghanistan reports began to arise about the production of narcotic trafficking. It was only a matter of time when Iraq was to begin its role in an avenue of approach for trafficking. The United Nations seems to have been following this trend well, as a “report from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said Iraq is facing an upsurge in violent crime, including kidnapping and murder, with a strong possibility that drug trafficking could increase.” Though it seems counter-intuitive, post-conflict regions tend to be safer for narcotics traffickers to conduct their dangerous transportation. Perhaps when most people are dodging bullets it is easier to walk buy with a kilogram of heroin.

One thing that nearly everyone will agree on is the permeability of the Iraqi borders. The neighbors of Iraq have seen an upsurge in narcotic related activity along their borders also. BBC even reported that the Jordanians had “seized large quantities of drugs on the Iraq border.” The article went further to say that “[d]rugs are transported through Iraq and into Jordan, where they are moved onto traditional trafficking routes into Europe.” The article also lays claim back to the post-conflict model of narcotic traffic increase by quoting “[t]he president of the [International Narcotics Control Board], Hamid Ghodse, [as saying] the pattern of drug-trafficking in Iraq was similar to that observed in other post-conflict situations.” These “other post-conflict situations” are known as the Balkans falling the collapse of the Soviet Empire and the US intervention, the South-East Asian region following the end of the Vietnam conflict and of course the post-September 11th invasion of Afghanistan.

The Iraqi government, though constantly battling the relevant insurgent presence also is doing a decent amount to combat their own drug problem. As one UN report stated “[t]he Iraq Government’s record of cooperation with INCB continues to be exemplary.” This is important to note, for the sake of kudos to be given to the Iraqi government as they are so busy with an insurgency in their own nation. The Iraqi Insurgent-Terrorists are seemingly increasing their use of narcotics traffic and business as a method of financial gain. There have been a number of reports of Insurgents caught with not only explosives and weapons but also drugs, in amounts which are clearly for the purpose of distribution. These insurgents have so much chaos going on in their nation that they can slip by with drugs not even being detected. The aforementioned UN report supports this by saying the “[d]rug trafficking groups are said to enter Iraq’s holy cities disguised as pilgrims to go about their business.”

The narcotic trafficking situation in Iraq is only beginning. The situation in Afghanistan has been going for years and is much further along in maturation. This is especially important to take notice in as Afghanistan is still held to be a stronghold of the Taliban-Al Qaeda foundation. Andre Hollis, a Washington Times writer stated that “[g]lobal terrorism and international drug trafficking are partners” . The money from this narcotic trafficking is being funneled back into global terrorism, and we are not talking about a small amount of money. In Hollis’s report, he cited another report by the UN, which claimed that “drug production in Afghanistan […] generated $2.3 billion in 2003”. That is no small pocket change, even when we are discussing global terrorism. “This report also acknowledged that al Qaeda and the Taliban generate revenue from Afghan drug production,” it is a “conservative assumption that the terrorists take 10 percent of the Afghan drug profits means they generated at least $200 million in 2003 from drug trafficking alone.”

So we can see how much Afghanistan’s narcotic trafficking is helping the terrorist networks still at play in the nation. This should be taken as a warning at what Iraq may be headed for. Of course the region may be different in regards to its ability to produce the narcotics, but at least as a trafficking point, Iraq is headed to the same level of importance. This is bad enough because we have enough nations supporting Islamic fundamentalism already. The last thing the west needs is more money funneled into the slush fund. One nation which has been cautious not to be named too often in terrorism funding is Saudi Arabia, which itself “has admitted to spending more than $87 billion over the last decade in an effort to spread Wahhabism” , a form of Muslim extremism. It should be noted that in the same report that mentioned Saudi Arabia influence, it was also noted that “[d]rug trafficking, an estimated $2 trillion market per year, has become the best weapon for terrorists”

For this writing I have avoided mentioning much at all about the Cartels in South America and the terrorism that they fund in their own home nations, and occasionally in southern parts of North America, especially in the Miami area in the 1980’s. But there is another specter haunting South America and that is the specter of Islamic influence in the region. The South American region is unstable enough already and to bring in Islam as the fastest growing religion in the region should not fall on deaf ears. Known terrorist groups such as Hamas but more specifically and prominently Hizballah, which has greatly infiltrated the region. These groups are recruiting and spreading their version of Islam and social structure, partially funded through the use of narcotics trafficking. There should be no question why Middle Eastern terrorist groups would want to infiltrate the South American region. First of all, it is in our own (America’s) back yard, and has shown before with the expansion of Communist aggression to be a good spot. Also the Cartels already present in the region have shown that it is not too difficult to conduct a successful terrorism campaign there. The infrastructure is already present.

With these thoughts and facts in mind one must conclude that Narco-Terrorism is a serious threat to the tenets of western civilization and the greater stability of our global responsibilities. I hope to see sooner, rather than (too) later the professionals in the Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Drug areas begin to work together more effectively and comprehensively.

Works Cites

i) http://www.terrorismfiles.org
ii) CNN article, August 28, 2003 “U.N. warns Iraq crime on the rise”.
iii) “Lawless Iraq is ‘key drug route’”, 12 May, 2005 BBC news online
iv) International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).
v) UN Press Release UNIS/NAR/897, 12 May 2005.
vi) “A war on drugs and terror”, Andre Hollis, Washington Times (online).
vii) Turning Off the Tap of Terrorist Funding, A briefing by Rachel Ehrenfeld September 19, 2003.

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