Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns is making some very interesting claims:
NATO has intercepted Iranian weapons shipments to Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgents, providing evidence Iran is violating international law to aid a group it once considered a bitter enemy, a senior U.S. diplomat said Wednesday.
“There’s irrefutable evidence the Iranians are now doing this,” Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said on CNN. “It’s certainly coming from the government of Iran. It’s coming from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard corps command, which is a basic unit of the Iranian government.”
I’ve written a lot about Afghanistan at Reload, and I just want to quickly explain why we should be very skeptical of what Burns is saying. This post will be short on links because I’m on my lunch break, and I don’t have time to look up everything I’ve cited in the past on this.
Long story short, Afghanistan, as we all know, is the major opium producing country in the world – by far. The heroin that’s produced in hidden labs throughout Afghanistan is smuggled out in several different directions, most of which ends up in Europe, but a growing percentage stays in the countries along the smuggling routes (India, Pakistan, Russia, and Iran). Iran actually has one of the worst heroin problems in the world, and this is very clearly something that the theocratic Iranian leadership is not happy about.
The attempts by NATO forces and the Karzai government to destroy the opium production from within Afghanistan is beyond futile. The industry is roughly one half of the entire country’s GDP. You can’t just wipe that out militarily. Even with the unanimous support from outside the country to eliminate the trade, drug smugglers still dominate large areas of Afghanistan – especially in the south. But because the trade is still illegal, and coalition forces still have a mandate to assist the Karzai government in destroying the opium fields, the Taliban have been able to set up a protection racket, where they can collect ‘fees’ from the drug smugglers in exchange for making sure that their fields are spared when the eradication teams come through.
The Taliban doesn’t get paid in stacks of bills, though. Instead, they get paid in something that’s more valuable to them – weapons that they can use to fight the coalition forces. That’s where the Iranians come in. Seeing the massive increase in drug smuggling coming across the Iran-Afghanistan border, the Iranian government began to more heavily patrol the area. The intention was never to arm the Taliban, but that was the inevitable result. The Iranian government is notoriously unable to enforce its own strict laws, and high-ranking Iranian officials were bound to find ways to get in on the massive profits to be made by helping all that heroin make its way to London. This is why Iranian arms have ended up in the arms of the Taliban.
Obviously, these accusations aren’t coming out of nowhere. We’ve got a fleet of warships off the southern Iranian coast and we continue to have dimwitted Congressmen making severe threats against the regime. There’s a strong movement among a small subset of Americans to start a war with Iran, a move that would end in disaster. Those of us who still have our common sense intact need to keep dealing with the facts.