October 16, 2006

Foreign Equipment in S. Lebanon and the Drugs Trade Through Iran

I'd heard a little about this subject earlier in the year, as well as the British government's cooperation with Iran on the matter of preventing drug smuggling. It's been hard to find sourced information about, though, sometimes the Google gods smile on me at the time of a search and sometimes they don't. But here is the British Foreign Secretary's August statement statement about British equipment found in Lebanon by the IDF:

... One item was a remote video camera manufactured in the UK, which did not require an export licence and is widely available through normal commercial outlets.

The other equipment was a static thermal imaging system that was exported under an export licence to Lebanon for use at a private residence. The exporter has confirmed that the equipment was exported and would have been part of a fixed installation, and that the equipment is not suitable for hand held operation. The static thermal imaging system was exported directly to a private end user in Lebanon in 1999.

The equipment found by the IDF was not exported to Iran, as the media have speculated. Nor does it include night vision goggles: the equipment found is entirely different in nature.

... You asked more broadly about sensitive exports to Iran. ... We made one such exception in 2003 when we agreed to license the export of 250 sets of night vision goggles to the United Nations Drugs Control Programme in Iran for use against heroin/opium smugglers. ... We were satisfied that the goods would only be used for the end-use stated, and that the risk of diversion was minimal.

As you recall in your letter, we also agreed to donate 50 sets of armoured vests and body armour plates to the Iranian Anti-Narcotics Police in 2005 to protect them in their anti-smuggling operations. This gift was laid before parliament for 14 days with no objections registered. ... We were satisfied that the goods would only be used for the end-use stated, and that the risk of diversion was minimal.

We have not received any indication that this equipment is being used for any other purpose. We have not made any further exceptions to our arms embargo since 2005.

We remain committed to co-operation with Iran in the fight against the drugs trade. Around 60% of all heroin entering the UK transits Iran. Iran is actively involved in anti-trafficking efforts and seizes more opiates than any other country in the world. ...

This 2002 history of the Iranian drug war would indicate that the British weren't just blowing smoke about the issue, or Iran's seriousness about it:

... "After the revolution in 1979, Iran, which had cultivated drugs for years, managed to eradicate growing of opium poppies in a year and a half," says Antonio Mazzitelli, the Teheran representative of the UN Drug Control Programme (UNDCP).

... Forty-two thousand soldiers, police and militia, a tenth of Iranís armed forces, are deployed along the eastern border, 1,950 kilometres from Turkmenistan, in the north, down to the Indian Ocean. The border has more than 200 observation posts, dozens of walls blocking mountain passes and hundreds of kilometres of trenches and barbed wire, an investment of $1bn, plus upkeep. Iranís majlis (parliament) allocated $25m to improve border fortifications in 2000: 3,140 members of the security forces, including two generals, have been killed in skirmishes with smugglers since 1979 ...

This Council on Foreign Relations backgrounder from Sept., 2006 covers the effects of Afghanistan's 59% increase in opium production over last year, while another reviews the effects of the increased drug availability in Iran, what steps their government has taken to deal with it and how it's been impacted by counter-terrorism policies.

However, if Israel should end up invading Lebanon again, they're going to find a lot more equipment that definitely did make it there from Iran, regardless of the country of ultimate origin. Iran will be spending between $35-50 million dollars to rebuild schools, hospitals, places of worship and roads in bombed out areas. We'll see how that works out, but if they see it through, imagine what the Iraqis are going to be thinking.

Posted by natasha at October 16, 2006 06:02 PM | International | Technorati links |