Iraq’s drug habit is a threat to its stability



Iraq’s drug habit is a threat to its stability

Image an Iraqi hospital with wounded patients [file photo]

Iraqi hospital with wounded patients [File photo]

Inside Baghdad’s Ibn Rushd hospital are wards populated by male patients, old and young, battling drug and substance addictions. The hospital provides recovery services, but the misery of sufferers is kept out of sight and few possess the faith to let their tales be heard. The lasting imprint of wars, old and continuing, potentiates these habits. As a relief from suffering and with the degeneration of once sturdy belief systems, hundreds and thousands have turned to hard drugs.

A cauldron of illicit drugs covers all 14 of Iraq’s provinces with narcotics most visible in Basra where methamphetamine has emerged as a local staple. Some place the usage of meth here — or crystal as it’s known locally — at 62.1 per cent of the country’s consumption, as reports by The New Arab show.

The meth boom in Basra can be explained by the port city’s strategic position as it is able to handle the steady flow of goods and illicit drugs entering the country. Trafficking gangs are not strangers to using Basra as a transit point to sustain the expansion of the narcotics trade in the region.

Gangs in neighbouring Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan have no doubt toyed with the idea of using Iraq as a gateway for drugs consignments that Saddam Hussein’s toppling made possible in 2003. For them, the Iraqi arena is particularly profitable and it’s where drug Czars can capitalise on the need of young people to numb the pain and grief of war. The nightmare this poses is difficult for local security forces to combat as they are split between those aiding and abetting traffickers and those disgraced by the phenomenon but ill-equipped to fight it alone.

In Samawah alone a total of 600 dealers reside in the province according to jurist Wael Abdul Latif. In the decades before 2003 the Iraqi arena was clean of drugs: “one of the very few regional states that could claim that drug abuse was not a problem in society,” security consultant Mustafa Al-Ani expressed years ago, citing “strict laws” and “severe punishment” by the Baath regime as the reason for this. However, the security gap America’s invasion opened up caused a near-complete reversal of the past Al-Ani describes.

Indications of heroin trafficked from Iraq mentioned in the 2015 World Drug Report, speaks of the effectiveness of organised networks that operate along the east-west axis and the weakness of internal security and the inability to patrol Iraq’s unmanned borders.

Read: Investment in Iraq smacks of exploitation; regional big-hitters should open their coffers

Statics on the problem might be inconclusive but the protracted nature of drug abuse confirms predictions made by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in late 2003 that drug trafficking would increase. In Afghanistan opium generates one third of Afghanistan’s economic output, underscoring the need for its continuation and expansion in the minds of local narcotics actors.

Drug gangs are notably active in Iraq’s shrine cities of Karbala and Najaf, where there have been major seizures in the last 13 years. Drug-trafficking gangs enter these cities disguised as pilgrims, distributing heroin, hashish and amphetamine pills from Afghanistan, through Iran. Near weekly seizures are reported locally.

There is no one culprit but a convergence of actors and Iranian, Afghani, Iraqi and Turkish cartels. Shipments from Afghanistan pass through Iran into Iraq, bound for Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and even European markets. Rising levels of drug dependency are also felt in Jordan, with the entry of hashish and opium. Jordan’s public security directorate (PSD), as quoted by the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (2006), conceded that 28 seizures at the Iraqi border occurred in 2005.

These menacing developments cannot be divorced from pervasive corruption and the rise of international terrorism, both of which are fed by drug-related proceeds. Expansive illicit networks are also working to satisfy multiple demands. Captagon tablets to enhance battle performance, intoxicants for Gulf-bound expat and local communities in the region, prescription drug abuse to feed the habits of Iraqi soldiers as reported in The New York Times in 2008, and above all else, the need for hard cash.

A US State Department report from 2013 rued Iraq’s leadership for failure to “devote significant resources to drug cases,” but unverified images and Twitter posts allege that Iraq’s special forces were dispatched last weekend to southern Iraq to combat the drug trade in southern Iraq.

Read: IRGC uses crack epidemic as a means of destroying resistance among Ahwazis

The funds needed to build public rehabilitation services are lacking and rarely considered; it is a priority eclipsed by defence spending. The high potential for abuse of certain drugs, for example meth, will crush the educational potential of Iraq’s millennials.

“Meth of course boosts dopamine levels and gives users a certain rush – the bigger problem are withdrawal symptoms. Addiction happens very quickly and weaning yourself is not without numerous challenges,” Dr Usama, director of Ibn Rushd rehabilitation hospital told Sumaria news.

Relapse, he added, is as much of an uphill struggle as the addiction and threatens to render an entire generation inoperative at a time when their contribution to national growth has never been needed more.


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Saudi Arabia arrests second richest man in kingdom



Saudi Arabia arrests second richest man in kingdom

Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi [Capital/Facebook]

Saudi authorities have arrested Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi, a dual national with Saudi and Ethiopian citizenship and is reportedly the second richest Saudi, after Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal.

While bin Talal’s arrest has gained most media attention. Al-Amoudi’s arrest is especially important because it could potentially destabilize the economy of an entire country, according to Middle East Eye.

Al-Amoudi, who is also known as “the Sheikh”, has invested in almost every sector of Ethiopia’s economy, including hotels, agriculture and astrology.

According to a leaked diplomatic cable from 2008 “the Sheikh’s influence on the Ethiopian economy cannot be underestimated.”

In the nearly ten years a since then it has become even harder to estimate the exact value of Al-Amoudi’s total investment in Ethiopia, which is among the fastest developing countries in Africa. One analyst estimated the value of the Sheikh’s investment at $3.4 billion, which represents 4.7 per cent of Ethiopia’s current GDP.

Another said his companies employ about 100,000 people, which represent 14 per cent of the Ethiopian private sector, according to the latest Labour Force Survey, 2013. However, World Bank analysts warn that these figures might have markedly increased over the past four years as the sector has developed since then.

Report: Saudi arrests army officers in anti-corruption purge

Al-Amoudi has occupied the front pages of Ethiopia’s most prominent magazines since his arrest. News agencies have covered news of his detention, including the rumours that have been circulating on social media websites, as breaking news.

“They are now panicking” said Henok Gabisa, a Visiting Academic Fellow at Washington and Lee University School of Law in Virginia and an Ethiopian researcher.

In the few days after Al-Amoudi’s arrest, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn felt the need to hold his first press conference in two months. During the conference, he answered questions related to Al-Amoudi and stressed that the government does not believe that this will affect Al-Amoudi’s investments in Ethiopia.

An Ethiopian Investment Authority official rejected the notion that Al Amoudi’s arrest might create chaos in the government, “The country’s economy is not based on one investor. For heaven’s sake, we are 100 million people, how can we depend on one investment?! This is funny.”


“Investments outside Saudi Arabia that are owned by the Sheikh have not been yet affected by these changes,” said Tim Pendry, Al-Amoudi’s spokesman in the UK.

Although they acknowledge that Chinese people who are heavily investing in Ethiopia have now a much larger stake than Al-Amoudi in Ethiopia, analysts suggest that even if the government is not in a state of panic at present, there would definitely be future concerns about the extent to which a conflict with Saudi Arabia would affect the Ethiopian economy.

Dr Awol Allo, a law lecturer at the Keele University, said:

He is a person whose presence or absence might affect the country’s economy.

He added: “He has an impact and in light of all the problems that are associated with his investments in the country, this makes him an influential figure.”


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The UAE and Israel are like brothers, says Abu Dhabi’s senior general



The UAE and Israel are like brothers, said one of Abu Dhabi’s senior military general.

During an interview with an American news agency Defence & Aerospace Report, Staff Major General, Pilot Abdullah Al-Hashmi, answered questions about UAE military capability.

Al-Hashmi said that that US should have no concerns about arming the UAE because the Emirates seeks to become not just an ally but “the strategic ally” of the US. Relations between the two countries is a “win-win situation …. because when you build the UAE capability you are building the USA capability,” he explained

Later in the interview, Al-Hashmi was asked if increasing UAE military capability was a threat to Israel is any way. The General implied that the two countries are like brothers and that the USA was like the “older brother” who can oversee any differences the two countries may have.

“If there is a solution between Israel and Arab, or Palestine, it’s going to be done on the table because I don’t think we are a threat to Israel nor we think Israel is a threat on UAE.”

He continued to explain: “Because we understand that like we are allies of the United State, Israel is an ally of the United States and we have like a big brother.”

Read: Saudi: Palestinian Abbas must endorse US’ plan or leave


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