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Iran trades weapons for heroin with the Taliban

March 15, 2012

From the Wall Street Journal‘s ‘Corruption Currents‘ blog on Mar. 7:

Treasury Sanctions Iranian General For Afghan Heroin Trafficking

By Samuel Rubenfeld

The U.S. Treasury Department said Wednesday it sanctioned an Iranian general under the Kingpin Act for allowing Afghan narcotics traffickers to smuggle drugs through Iran.

Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force General Gholamreza Baghbani is the chief of a Qods Force office near the Afghan border.

Treasury said he facilitated the smuggling of heroin precursor chemicals and shipments of opium through the Iranian border and into Iran in exchange for moving weapons to the Taliban on his behalf.

It’s the first time the Kingpin Act has been used against an Iranian official, Treasury said in a statement.

“Today’s action exposes [Qods Force] involvement in trafficking narcotics, made doubly reprehensible here because it is done as part of a broader scheme to support terrorism,” said David Cohen, undersecretary of Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, in the statement.

Some related background follows from another source:

  • Is Iran providing tangible financial, military or political support for the Taliban?

There have been numerous public reports about support for the Taliban coming from Iran. There are reports that elements within the Revolutionary Guards may have transferred long-range rockets to the Taliban and provided training for the Taliban. In February 2011, British forces reportedly intercepted in Afghanistan a shipment of 48 122-mm rockets that they claimed had originated from Iran. Spokesmen of the Islamic Republic have consistently denied all these allegations. Such denials, even if we assume their validity, do not preclude the possibility that non-state actors within Iran may be used by the government to provide weapons or training to some factions within the Taliban organization.

From a strategic perspective, the Iranian government looks at the Taliban as a useful enemy that is undermining the interests of its other enemy, namely the United States. Therefore, it should not be surprising at all if the Iranian government supports the Taliban or if it looks the other away as behind-the-scenes support is provided by Iran’s non-state actors to the Taliban.

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