By John Lee.

The National Investment Commission (NIC) has announced new investment opportunities in Iraq:

  1. Glass production, State Company for Glass and Refractories Industry (SCGR)
  2. Drugs and Medical Appliances (Samarra), State Company for Drugs and Medical Appliances

(Source: National Investment Commission)

(Picture: Business opportunity word cloud, from ibreakstock/Shutterstock)

By Wassim Bassem for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

A Nov. 23 report by specialized judges revealed the establishment of plants to produce Krystal — the local name of crystal methamphetamine or crystal meth. The findings suggest that Iraq is changing from a corridor for drugs between neighboring countries into a producer of narcotics, taking advantage of poor regulatory procedures on the porous border.

This explains the increased arrests of drug dealers and users, most recently on Dec. 20, when the Ministry of Interior announced the arrest of a group of six people who were trafficking narcotics in a horse stable in the Abu Ghraib area, west of Baghdad.

A source in the national security apparatus confirmed Nov. 19 the presence of plants used to produce drugs, such as crystal meth, in Basra and Maysan provinces in the south. The people running the plants mix narcotic chemicals that are smuggled from abroad with other materials. The source said that this has turned Iraq into a producing country of narcotics.

Faeq al-Sheikh Ali, a member of parliament, said Oct. 25 that “cannabis is cultivated in opium farms in south Iraq under the patronage of political parties and influential armed groups,” which gave the phenomenon a political dimension, causing much controversy about political parties using drug profits for political money.

Ali’s statements prompted Iraqi parliament’s Agricultural Committee to declare Dec. 12 that it will “investigate the information about the cultivation of some crops used for the manufacture of drugs, especially opium in the south of Iraq.”

In an interview with Al-Monitor, Ali al-Badri, a member of parliament on the Agricultural Committee, denied claims about opium cultivation in southern Iraq at the hands of political parties and groups. “These reports are not accurate. The cultivation of such narcotics requires production means and lands for cultivation. The presence of some individual cases does not mean Iraq is now producing drugs,” he said.

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

In the oil-rich city of Basra in southern Iraq, drug-trafficking gangs are gaining power. Through certain areas on the Iraqi-Iranian border, drugs come in from Iran to be consumed in Basra or smuggled to other Iraqi cities.

On Oct. 4, forces from the anti-drug office of the Basra police were able to arrest one drug dealer. However, local authorities are unable to touch major drug-trafficking gangs, because the local police lack the expertise and means to do so and thus only arrests middlemen and drug users.

The drug trade has been linked to several problems such as armed conflicts between gangs, murders, kidnappings and armed robberies. For instance, on Oct. 8, the Basra police reported that a young man was shot dead while another was injured as a result of an armed brawl between drug gangs. On Oct. 17, the Basra police also arrested two drug dealers with a significant quantity of marijuana and three guns.

Back on Aug. 25, Basra Police Chief Abdul-Karim al-Mayahi noted at a press conference, “Drug use has skyrocketed in 2016, and control is needed over the borders of Basra province to prevent drugs from entering.” What began as a provincial matter turned into a national priority as efforts to fight it gained great momentum at the security and defense committee meetings held at the parliament on Oct. 3.

The number of drug abusers arrested in 2016 increased by about 300% compared to 2015, when 261 people were arrested for drug violations. That number jumped to 780 just in the first eight months of 2016. The amount of narcotic substances seized by authorities jumped by almost 12 times during the last fiscal year. The problem poses a threat to the citizens of the province, especially the young men targeted by drug-trafficking gangs.

In 2016, the provincial authorities convicted 47 individuals of drug-trafficking and gave them various sentences, including life imprisonment.

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Hash, Pills And Speed: Drug Smuggling In Iraq Supported By Maysan’s Tribes

Smuggling drugs through Iraq on the way to the Gulf and Europe is big business in Maysan province – and it is often the local tribes in the border areas facilitating the enterprise.

Drug trafficking has been a popular trade in the southern province of Maysan since the 1990s.

“We needed to make money because of the international sanctions against Iraq [during Saddam Hussein’s regime],” explains Mohammed Mujbel, a former drug trafficker who spent several years in prison here.

“Saddam was busy with the opposition inside Iraq and Iran was busy with Saddam. It was a big opportunity to make profits because those in the Gulf countries used to buy a lot from us.”

“The work wasn’t easy,” Mujbel admits. “We were making a lot of money but our lives were always in danger. The parties that opposed Saddam were using the border areas as shelters and they would also try and stop us from smuggling drugs. But we managed to do it anyway – inside donkey saddles, cans of food and toys.”

These days drugs come in by car, motorbike and truck, Mujbel says. “The only things that haven’t changed are the smuggling routes on the back roads.”

The drug smugglers bring the drugs from Iran to the Persian Gulf countries, and possibly onto Europe, via the provinces of Dhi Qar or Basra, or alternatively Najaf and Muthanna provinces, which share a desert border with Saudi Arabia. The drugs often originate in Afghanistan.