Iran ‘Key Player’ in Global War on Drugs

By Amir-Pasha Tabrizian, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

Shortly after the announcement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in July, thousands of Iranians took to the streets to celebrate the historic nuclear deal. “[Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad] Zarif, thank you,” cheered ecstatic crowds, holding placards in support of the agreement and President Hassan Rouhani’s government.

If duly implemented, the JCPOA will limit Iran’s nuclear program while lifting the international sanctions that have isolated the country from the international community for more than a decade. For the people of Iran, who have tasted the bitterness of sanctions, this agreement is indeed a call for celebration.

Arguments that Iran’s reengagement in both regional and international affairs can positively impact political, security and economic conversations are often heard. Yet no one seems to be talking about Iran’s influence over another global challenge: the fight against the international illicit drug trade.

Iran is a major transit route for illegal opiates bound for international markets. It shares a 936-kilometer (581-mile) border with Afghanistan — the world’s largest supplier of these opiates. Thus, an Iran that is more fully incorporated in regional security conversations could play an important role in curbing the immense threat from illicit drugs. Opiates — opium, heroin and morphine-based drugs — top the list of problem substances that cause disease and deaths worldwide.

With the fall of the Taliban in 2001, many hoped that a more accountable Afghan government would step up the battle against poppy cultivation. But according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), poppy cultivation has only increased since 2001 and continues its upward trend.

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