Discussion in 'Current Events' started by Truthmatters, May 23, 2007.
Opium: Iraq's deadly new export
Amid the anarchy, farmers begin to grow opium poppies, raising fears that the country could become a major heroin supplier
By Patrick Cockburn in Baghdad
Published: 23 May 2007
Farmers in southern Iraq have started to grow opium poppies in their fields for the first time, sparking fears that Iraq might become a serious drugs producer along the lines of Afghanistan.
Rice farmers along the Euphrates, to the west of the city of Diwaniya, south of Baghdad, have stopped cultivating rice, for which the area is famous, and are instead planting poppies, Iraqi sources familiar with the area have told The Independent.
The shift to opium cultivation is still in its early stages but there is little the Iraqi government can do about it because rival Shia militias and their surrogates in the security forces control Diwaniya and its neighbourhood. There have been bloody clashes between militiamen, police, Iraqi army and US forces in the city over the past two months.
The shift to opium production is taking place in the well-irrigated land west and south of Diwaniya around the towns of Ash Shamiyah, al Ghammas and Ash Shinafiyah. The farmers are said to be having problems in growing the poppies because of the intense heat and high humidity. It is too dangerous for foreign journalists to visit Diwaniya but the start of opium poppy cultivation is attested by two students from there and a source in Basra familiar with the Iraqi drugs trade.
Drug smugglers have for long used Iraq as a transit point for heroin, produced from opium in laboratories in Afghanistan, being sent through Iran to rich markets in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. Saddam Hussein's security apparatus in Basra was reportedly heavily involved in the illicit trade. Opium poppies have hitherto not been grown in Iraq and the fact that they are being planted is a measure of the violence in southern Iraq. It is unlikely that the farmers' decision was spontaneous and the gangs financing them are said to be "well-equipped with good vehicles and weapons and are well-organised".
They gotta feed their families somehow.
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