Efforts between world powers and Iran to reach a comprehensive deal on the country’s nuclear program may now be back in the news, but a related issue with global ramifications is receiving far less attention: Iran’s war on drugs.
Earlier this month, Iranian media reported that law-enforcement officers had captured more than a ton of illicit drugs on the eastern border, prompting Iran's anti-narcotics police chief to boast of his success in reproducing “breeds of drug-sniffing dogs” despite the “(anti-Iran) sanctions” arrayed against the country. In a more dramatic incident in November, Iranian security personnel killed eight smugglers with RPGs, grenades, and over a ton of narcotics in the country’s often-volatile southeastern region.
This was far from the first time that Iranian forces had faced off against heavily armed drug smugglers. Since the 1979 revolution, Iran has lost 4,000 security personnel in its efforts to combat drug trafficking, and the drug war’s toll on civilians has been even higher. With 1.2 million drug addicts, or just over 2 percent of the population aged 15-64, Iran has one of the highest addiction rates in the world. This is a product not only of Iran’s mismanaged and sanctions-laden economy, but also of its 560-mile border with an opium factory (read: Afghanistan) that produces 90 percent of the world’s opium. Out of its eastern neighbor’s 380 metric tons of annual heroin production, roughly 105 flow into Iran.