Al-Arabia – The US called on the major buyers of Iranian oil to halt all oil purchases, of course, not all will follow this demand, but the fact that Iran’s oil exports will decline is beyond question. On the other hand, due to sanctions and pressure from the United States, large European companies are leaving Iran. Only a few days ago, the US president introduced a new package of sanctions that would hit the agonizing Iranian economy hard.
As a result of all these sanctions and restrictive measures, the flow of foreign currency to Iran is expected to decrease, and this will affect Iran’s ability to carry out its expansion in the region. However, it should not be forgotten that it is not the only source of large amounts of foreign currency for Iran.
One of the sources of stable currency inflow is the involvement in the international drug trade.
Currently, illegal drug trafficking is considered one of the most profitable activities. The wealth of monarchs pales in comparison with the money that heads of drug cartels earn.
Every year drug dealers come up with all the new methods of transportation and marketing of their goods. No one seems to be impressed by the use of submarines to transport and the Internet to sell drugs.
Now, imagine that the state is involved in drug trafficking, either directly or through a proxy structure. Certainly, states have much more possibilities of hidden transportation, storing, marketing and subsequent hiding of evidence that the drug cartels have.
There is evidence indicating that Iran, in particular, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Hezbollah affiliated with Iran are involved in the global drug trafficking network.
Naturally, they managed to acquire “business partners” represented by the Albanian mafia and Latin American drug cartels.
Undoubtedly, this kind of activity cannot be carried out without the knowledge of the country’s top leadership. Apparently, the Iranian regime treats these activities, on the one hand, as an opportunity to obtain currency to maintain its global Hybrid War, and on the other hand, as a “Narco Jihad” against Western countries and primarily against the United States.
Many observers wonder how Iran, while in a difficult economic situation, can afford to finance a massive campaign to destabilize the region, as well as an extensive network of agents in the West. I think they should pay attention to the involvement of Iranian special services in the global drug trafficking.
It should be noted that even without the drug trafficking, the IRGC controls a vast, unaccountable business empire in Iran, including also illegal seaports, which are used for import and export of various cargoes by smuggling. Ties with drug cartels in South and Central America are maintained through Hezbollah.
In March 2012, the US Department of Treasury accused a high-ranking officer of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Brig. Gen. Gholamreza Baghbani, the commanding officer of the Quds Force to be a kingpin of heroin exports to the West. Besides, some Taliban commanders were included in this list. Thus, the Iranian special services used funds from the drug trafficking for the supply of arms and ammunition to the Taliban. To someone, it may seem strange that the Shiite fanatics supply arms to Sunni radicals, but I will return to this issue later.
Moreover, it should not seem strange that for killing Saudi Ambassador in the United States in 2011, Iranians turned to the Mexican drug cartels, with which Tehran has strong ties.
However, one cannot believe that Iran relies solely on cartels and Hezbollah in such matters. Even during the rule of Hugo Chavez, Tehran established close cooperation with Venezuela, Venezuela, thus, became the gateway for Iran in South and Central America, including the issue of the drug trafficking. For Venezuelans, it was not something new, because almost all of the Venezuelan elite are somehow implicated in drug trafficking including the family of the current President Nicolas Maduro.
According to Lebanese officials, IranAir planes operating on scheduled flights to and from Venezuela are also involved in the transportation of drugs.
Drugs smuggled into the US, Europe
Emissaries of Hezbollah have also set up cocaine exports from South America to Europe, which brings them considerable profits in hard currency. This money will undoubtedly go on the financing of the Organization’s activities. According to former DEA operations, Chief Michael Braun, Hezbollah has developed “the most sophisticated money laundering scheme or schemes that we have ever witnessed.”
The Chief ally and, I would say an accomplice of the Iranian regime in South America, Venezuela also helped “Middle Eastern friends” with their passports. Not so long ago Venezuelan passports, namely their open sale through the embassies of this country in the Middle East, became public and caused a scandal. Many citizens of Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iran received Venezuelan passports.
At the moment, it is unknown how many of the lucky owners of Venezuelan passports were people who just wanted to escape from the Middle Eastern conflicts, and how many of them were agents of Hezbollah or Iran.
A person (such as an Iranian agent) with a new name and Venezuelan passport can arrive in the United States, ask for political asylum there, or even live illegally, or become a student and, thus, form a sleeping terrorist cell, waiting for further instructions from Tehran.
These people might also be active agents, who can travel unhindered throughout Central and South America, without causing any suspicion or draw the attention of the United States special service in the region, including for coordination and operational management of the Iranian drug trafficking in this part of the world.
There is also evidence of close cooperation of Hezbollah with drug cartels and gangs in Brazil. Cocaine from this country is also sent for sale to the United States and the EU countries.
In late 2017, the world was shocked, perhaps, by one of the main scandals associated with the presidency of Barack Obama. I mean the investigation conducted by the Politico that shed light on many circumstances associated with “Project Cassandra.”
“Project Cassandra” is a large-scale operation initiated by the US Drug Enforcement Administration in 2008. During the investigation, the DEA agents managed to reach Hezbollah’s network of drug smugglers in the US and Europe and to identify the most complex network for money laundering and smuggling (including smuggling Bell helicopters, night-vision goggles, and other items for the Iranian regime). According to the DEA, Hezbollah received $1 billion annually through the smuggling of drugs, arms, money laundering through the sale of used cars and other criminal activities.
Taking into account that ten years passed from 2008 to 2018, we can assume that Hezbollah earned $10 billion only from the drug trafficking. For reference, the revenues of the Lebanese budget for 2016 amounted to $10 billion.
However, unfortunately, “Project Cassandra” has not been successful and did not end with the destruction of the drug trafficking and money laundering network. As it turns out from the Politico investigation, not only did the Obama administration not support the project but also interfered with all sorts of obstacles.
Based on the Politico investigation and the facts presented therein, it seems that the White House sabotaged the Project Cassandra. At the same time, the administration must have known that some of the drugs are sold in the US to US citizens, another part is sold in Europe, in the US-allied countries, and money is used for terror against another US ally, Israel (and not only against Israel). The White House must have also known about the most complicated scheme for laundering dirty money, part of which started in the United States, and the other end led to Beirut and possibly from there to Tehran.
Also, it should be taken into account that in 1997 Hezbollah was introduced by the US State Department into the list of terrorist organizations.
The reason for this omission on the part of the Obama administration lies in their special attitude towards Iran and its possible role in the region.
The Obama administration decided to sacrifice “small” goals for the sake of a more global project, a Nuclear Deal with Iran being the part of it. A few days later, after the Politico publication, the Washington Post published an article by Erik Wemple in which he quoted the words of former high-ranking officials of the Obama administration.
Officials categorically denied something similar and accused Politico of spreading false data. Along with this, almost all officials stressed that they fought and were consistent in their struggle against Hezbollah. The question remains: how did it turn out that through such an active struggle of the US state machine with Hezbollah, this organization managed to grow and become so strong.
Iranian special services also use their northern border to organize drug trafficking in Europe. Drugs are being transported through the occupied territories of Azerbaijan and further to the Black Sea ports of Georgia.