Thu, 12 Dec 2019

Iran's battle against drug trafficking weakened by sanctions

By Sheetal Sukhija, Tajikistan News.Net
09 Dec 2018, 07:46 GMT+10

TEHRAN, Iran - After the U.S. reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran and its key oil exports, months after exiting the multilateral Iran Nuclear Deal, the economy of the Islamic Republic has suffered drastically.

Ties between the two countries hit a new low earlier this year, when the U.S. President Donald Trump pulled America out of the "disastrous" deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The deal was signed during the Barack Obama administration in 2015 between Iran and other world powers, including the U.S., U.K., France, China, Russia and Germany.

Since exiting the deal, the U.S. has reimposed all the sanctions that Iran received relief from while Washington was still part of the deal.

The U.S. is seeking to intensify economic pressure on Iran, to get the country to renegotiate the deal, but has received repeated rejections from the Islamic Republic.

Despite facing tough sanctions, Iran has slammed Trump's calls to renegotiate the deal and is seeking aid from Europe and the other signatories to uphold the deal.   

On Saturday, the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned of dire situations in the face of U.S. sanctions, that could affect several parts of the world, especially Western nations.

Rouhani said that until sanctions were reimposed this year, Iran spent around $2.5 billion annually to fight drug trafficking. 

'Expect drugs and bombs'

Addressing a six-nation conference on fighting terrorism, that was attended by lawmakers from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, China and Russia - the Iranian President argued that if Iran becomes weakened by U.S. sanctions, Western countries will face a "massive influx of drugs."

Rouhani pointed out that the U.S. sanctions aimed at crippling the country's economy would mean that a weakened Iran would be less able to fight drug trafficking.  

He said, "Weakening Iran by sanctions will not be safe. Those who do not believe us, it is good to look at the map."

Rouhani explained that Iran lies on major global drug route that lies between Afghanistan and Europe and the Persian Gulf states.

For several years now, drug trafficking has been a serious challenge for Iran.

The country not only borders the world's largest producer of opium - Afghanistan but also shares a border with Pakistan, which is a major transit country for drugs.

According to UN reports, farmers in Afghanistan harvest about 80 percent of the world's supply of Opium, which is a raw material used for heroin.

Afghanistan's Helmand Province is the biggest opium-producing region of the country. 

Not only has Iran spent billions each year to fight drug trafficking, but has also suffered several losses as several border guards are killed each year during fights with drug smugglers.

In a bid to display its determination to continue its fight against drugs, Iran also burns about 100 tons of seized narcotics each year. 

Iran has also faced intense criticism in recent years after figures revealed that 73 percent of executions in the country were of convicted drug smugglers.

According to government statistics, Iran spent more than $26 million in 2013, to dig canals, erect walls and embankments, create new outposts and set up barbed wire along its 2,000 km border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

Further, a UN report published in 2014 showed that Iran accounted for two-thirds of the world's opium seizures and one-fourth of the world's heroin and morphine seizures in the year 2012. 

'Trump's actions' amount to 'economic terrorism'

Apart from the problem with drug trafficking, Rouhani also predicted a "deluge" of refugees and attacks on the West if Iran's ability to contain them is weakened by the strict U.S. sanctions.

In a speech broadcast live on state television, Rouhani said, "I warn those who impose sanctions that if Iran's ability to fight drugs and terrorism are affected ... you will not be safe from a deluge of drugs, asylum seekers, bombs and terrorism."

Rouhani likened Trump's withdrawal from the JCPOA to "economic terrorism," and said, "Economic terrorism means creating horror in a country and create fear in other countries that intend to invest (there). America's withdrawal from the (nuclear accord) is undoubtedly a clear example of economic terrorism."

Meanwhile, Iran's Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in his separate statement that the U.S. is selling more arms into the Middle East than the region needs.

Zarif, who said that rising U.S. arms sales made the region a "tinderbox," hinted towards the country's biggest regional rival, Saudi Arabia. 

His warning about the dangers of large arms sales by the U.S. comes after the country approved a major deal involving U.S. manufactured weapons and equipment. 

Zarif said, "The Americans have turned the region into a tinderbox. The level of arms sales by the Americans is unbelievable and much beyond regional needs and this points to the very dangerous policies followed by the Americans."

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