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Could standoff with Iran lead to ‘heroin tsunami’ in Europe?

Could standoff with Iran lead to ‘heroin tsunami’ in Europe?
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

Today, apparently, is International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is launching a new three-year campaign called “Do drugs control your life?”

But instead of releasing statements from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon or posting video clips in Serbian on YouTube, maybe the office should spend more time lobbying the Security Council and the IAEA.

The ongoing standoff with Tehran over its nuclear aims is threatening a rare cooperative venture between Iran and the West: Tehran’s campaign to stem opium and other drug trafficking from Afghanistan through Iran to Europe. In a little-noticed provision in the incentives package offered to Tehran on June 14, Western countries threatened to cut off further aid to the anti-drug efforts unless Iran agrees to halt its uranium enrichment.

Such measures would harm anti-drug efforts in the Middle East and Europe, U.N. officials say. Iran caught approximately 900 tons of Afghan drugs in 2007, and UNDOC Director Antonio Maria Costa warned that a “heroin tsunami” could hit Europe if aid were cut. And it could be devastating for Iran as well. Despite devoting 30,000 troops (like the fellow in the photo above) to drug patrols in border areas, the Islamic Republic already contains the highest proportion of heroin and opium addicts in the world, experts believe.