Iraqi Narco Trafficking on the Rise
One worsening issue that will confront the new government is the increasing wave of Iranian narcotrafficking in Iraq–especially crystal meth, a menace that has brought social catastrophies such as abductions and rape of children. An Iraqi secret agent in Basra told the Washington Post on October 12 that the smuggling of drugs began after opening the borders with Iran in 2003 but it wasn’t until 2017 that crystal meth began to appear. Iraq since then has been the port of entry of this drug coming from Iran to Turkey, Jordan, and Syria. Last year, Turkish authorities confiscated 5.5 tons of Methamphetamine. Despite Turkish counter-drug raids on the Iranian-Turkish borders, authorities say the amount of drugs confiscated continues to grow, reaching 8.6 tons in the first seven months of 2022. The Turkish authorities confirmed that the smuggling network includes Iranian citizens connected to regional organized crime cartels and part of these cartels objectives is to ensure the delivery of the drugs to countries in the EU, southeast Asia, and Austrlia.
Jordanian authorities also announced the confiscation of 45 tons of the material coming from Iraq in the first nine months of 2022, 20 tons more than seized in all of 2021. Syria, since 2011, has been a centralized narcotics manufacturing and exporting hub to Europe, North Africa, and the Gulf with more than 14 Captagon, 12 Crystal Meth, and 23 Marjuana manufacturing entities all under the control of Iranian-backed militias, the Assad regime, and their allies.
Poverty Spiking Among Iraqis, Despite Enormous Government Budget
Meanwhile, a recent study published on October 31 revealed the startling statistics that 25% of Iraqis, or nine million of Iraq’s population of 40 million, are now below the poverty line. In addition, 14% of Iraqis, or about four million people, are unemployed. These worsening poverty figures come during a year when the Iraqi government has generated massive revenues of $11 billion per month from oil sales alone.
New Government, or New Inheritance Distribution List?
Iraqi analysts forewarn of serious challenges that will face the new Iraqi government and see little prospect for near-term solutions to Iraq’s internal or foreign crises. Ihsan al-Shammari, a professor of Political Science at Baghdad University, said Iraq’s problems are not the result of the turbulent turnover of Iraqi governments, but rather “a defect in the structure of the system and how the political class chooses to deal with social democratic changes.”
Political analyst Ali Al-Baydar, meanwhile, judged that “the problem lies in the fact that this government comes with the same political bloc ideology that has [prevailed] since the overthrow of Saddam’s regime in 2003” and that the political blocs consider the state’s wealth and resources “part of their inheritance that is supposed to be distributed among them.”
As for Moqtada al-Sadr’s demand for new parliamentary elections within a year, Al-Shammari explained that the new government intends to fend off Sadr’s demand and implement a “containment strategy” against Sadr and his movement. Laheeb Hegal of the International Crisis Group agreed, noting that “the parties supporting the current government are not interested in holding early elections,” and believe that “a year deadline for holding them is not realistic.” Hegal also pointed out that the new prime minister is seeking to achieve a balance between the West and Iran.
Iraqi analysts also judged that the new governing coalition made a mistake in forming the new council of ministers based on quotas for positions. Ministerial positions were assigned based on religious sectarianism and ethnicity, with 12 cabinet posts going to Shi’ites, six to Sunnis, two to Kurds, and one woman representing Iraq’s minorities. The only real change in this cabinet’s distribution is that all twelve Shi’ite ministers are from the Coordination Framework blocs, representing the Shiite factions most closely aligned with Iran.