Sunday, January 20, 2008

Good News From Iraq: Opium Agriculture Takes Off

By Patrick Cockburn, Independent UKPosted on January 18, 2008, Printed on January 20, 2008

Editor's note: According to UN estimates, 92 percent of the world's heroin originates in Afghanistan, the other theater in Bush's "War on Terror."

The cultivation of opium poppies whose product is turned into heroin is spreading rapidly across Iraq as farmers find they can no longer make a living through growing traditional crops.
Afghans with experience in planting poppies have been helping farmers switch to producing opium in fertile parts of Diyala province, once famous for its oranges and pomegranates, north-east of Baghdad.

At a heavily guarded farm near the town of Buhriz, south of the provincial capital Baquba, poppies are grown between the orange trees in order to hide them, according to a local source.

The shift by Iraqi farmers to producing opium was first revealed by The Independent last May and is a very recent development. The first poppy fields, funded by drug smugglers who previously supplied Saudi Arabia and the Gulf with heroin from Afghanistan, were close to the city of Diwaniyah in southern Iraq.

The growing of poppies has now spread to Diyala, which is one of the places in Iraq where al-Qa'ida is still resisting US and Iraqi government forces. It is also deeply divided between Sunni, Shia and Kurd and the extreme violence means that local security men have little time to deal with the drugs trade. The speed with which farmers are turning to poppies is confirmed by the Iraqi news agency al-Malaf Press, which says that opium is now being produced around the towns of Khalis, Sa'adiya, Dain'ya and south of Baladruz, pointing out that these are all areas where al-Qa'ida is strong.

The agency cites a local agricultural engineer identified as MS al-Azawi as saying that local farmers got no support from the government and could not compete with cheap imports of fruit and vegetables. The price of fertilizer and fuel has also risen sharply. Mr Azawi says: "The cultivation of opium is the likely solution [to these problems."

To read the full account about the mushrooming poppy growth in Iraq click or cut and paste on the link at the top of this story.


antgne said...

My, my, my, the surge is working! For the drug dealers; isn't that special? The mess we're creating is, obviously, beyond the general public's belief as we get screwed by the administration. I can't wait to see if any of the tv pundits pick up on this story. What I want to know is since this was easily predictable; (even someone who reads My Pet Goat upside down should get it,) why didn't they deal with the problems the Aphganis would face? Oh, that's right, it's not their best ability, dealing with disasters...i.e. Katrina.

Bill Corcoran said...

Hi Antgne:

Thanks for your comment.

There is so much taking place in Iraq I hardly know what to post anymore. And it isn't good news as Fox News would want you to believe

I find it both astonishing and disheartening how the mainstream media in the U.S. has drawn the shades down on the Iraq war and the Afghanistan war.

Both countries are extremely unstable and the success of the "surge" is more of a smokescreen than reality. The tribal leaders in the area where the "surge" is working had already decided they were going to do something about the violence so all the chest pounding by Bush and Fox News is moot.

The problem which still exists in Iraq is the Iraqi government is no further along to some kind of reconciliation than they were a year ago.

And in Afghanistan, the Taliban has been waiting in the weeds and getting their forces together and according to all reliable sources are about to launch major strikes on our troops in the region.

It has gotten so you can't believe a thing you hear or read about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in the mainstream press and that is a real indictment of the media and what their job should be in providing Americans the TRUTH about the wars in both countries and not Bush White House "talking points."

Thanks again for your comment.

Bill Corcoran, host and owner of this blog.