People shop at the Grand Bazaar in the center of Tehran, Iran, August 2, 2017.
(photo credit: NAZANIN TABATABAEE YAZDI/ TIMA VIA REUTERS)
In a recent “anti-terrorism” conference in Tehran, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani claimed that reimposition of United States’ sanctions will undermine his country’s ability to fight drug trafficking and terrorism. He specifically warned that those who boycott Iran “will not be able to survive the debris of drugs, refugees, bombs and assassination.” Is his statement a friendly reminder or does it constitute a threat? To delineate that we must scrutinize each item in Rouhani’s remarks within the context of regime’s own behavior.
While Iran credits itself with a zero-tolerance campaign against drug trafficking that ostensibly prevents the dissemination of narcotics around the world, dubious activities of regime elements suggest otherwise. Smuggling of drugs is part of an illicit, underground enterprise that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps maintains, and on which it has built a financial empire. In 2012, a general in the IRGC Quds Force was designated by the US Treasury Department as a narcotics kingpin.
The IRGC allegedly collaborates with the Taliban in Afghanistan to smuggle opium and heroin into Iran. Thereafter it is said to distribute these drugs across Europe through its contacts within Albanian, Bulgarian and Romanian crime organizations. There are also reports that Hezbollah, the IRGC’s proxy in Lebanon, is deeply involved in the drug trade. Project Cassandra, a campaign launched by the US Drug Enforcement Administration in 2008, determined that Hezbollah was involved in shipping cocaine from Latin America to West Africa, as well as through Venezuela and Mexico to the United States. A Hezbollah financier allegedly involved in drug trafficking in Latin America was recently arrested in Brazil.
The IRGC and its Shi’ite proxies are also complicit – directly or indirectly – in creating the refugee crisis the world continues to grapple with. The Bashar Assad regime’s violent crackdown on the Syrian resistance and its repression of protests by the Syrian people were facilitated and aided by the IRGC and Hezbollah. Repression morphed into a brutal civil war and led to the rise of the Islamic State. These unfavorable circumstances ultimately resulted in more than six million people being internally displaced within Syria, and nearly five million becoming refugees outside the country. Interestingly, Iran’s acceptance rate of Syrian refugees has been nil.
THE ISLAMIST regime’s record of bombings and assassinations speaks eloquently for itself. In 2011 a plot by the IRGC to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States was foiled by the FBI. In 2012, a suicide bomber linked to Hezbollah attacked a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria, killing seven people. The regime has an especially extensive history of assassinating dissidents and opposition figures. In 1991, former imperial prime minister Shapour Bakhtiar was brutally murdered at his home in Paris by the regime’s assassins. In 1992, singer, entertainer and outspoken monarchist Fereydoun Farrokhzad suffered a similar fate at his apartment in Bonn, Germany.
Given this pattern of behavior, it appears that the executors of the consequences that Rouhani warns the world about are none other than the regime’s own hooligans. Israel has been fighting these culprits since their inception. The IDF has taken on the primary responsibility of fighting against the IRGC and Hezbollah insurgency in Syria. Over the past two years, the Israeli Army has carried out more than 200 air strikes against IRGC and Hezbollah targets in Syria. These operations have essentially bombed IRGC’s arsenals, military bases and compounds into oblivion.
Operation Northern Shield is an Israeli military effort to locate and destroy cross-border tunnels built by Hezbollah. These underground passageways could have been used to gain entry into Israel to wreak havoc and possibly smuggle in drugs. As for bomb plots and assassinations, information from Israeli intelligence led to the arrest of a suspect last month who was allegedly involved in a plot to murder an Arab-Iranian separatist leader living in Denmark. The Mossad also provided information to French authorities in June 2018 about a plan to attack an Iranian opposition group’s rally in Paris.
Rouhani is simply threatening retaliation against those who comply with US sanctions. This constitutes an escalation of the regime’s malign activities, whose perpetrators are well known to Israel. Israel’s efforts not only mitigate such threats against the world, but also weaken the instruments of chaos in the Middle East and violators of human rights inside Iran. The international community should not be intimidated by the Iranian regime’s threats. These bombastic innuendos have not deterred Israel from fighting a regime for which criminal behavior and terrorism have become business as usual.
Dr. Réza Behrouz is an Iranian-American physician and activist based in San Antonio, Texas. Avideh Rafaëla Motmâenfar is an Iranian-Canadian osteopath and activist based in Toronto.