How Drugs and Crime Bolster Iran Financially While Aiding Its Malign Activities

In June and July, Turkey arrested three terrorist cells linked to Tehran that were planning attacks on Israelis. If the Turkish press is to be believed, these would-be assassins were affiliated with Iranian organized-crime networks operating in the country—which, according to Omer Dostri, would not be surprising given the Islamic Republic’s record. Dostri explains how Iran utilizes ties with cartels and drug dealers—which stretch from using Hizballah to launder money for cocaine syndicates in South America to working with heroin kingpins in Afghanistan—to accomplish its goals.

Iran benefits in several ways from its engagement in criminal activity and drug trafficking. First, it makes money, especially since Iran is subject to economic sanctions that force the regime to look to illicit revenue streams. These payments are also sent to Hizballah in Lebanon, Kataib Hizballah in Iraq, and Ansar Allah (the Houthis) in Yemen, among others.

Second, Iran’s drug-trade-and-distribution efforts aim to poison the populations of Western countries, mainly the United States, where most of the trade is focused. According to Iran, which officially opposes drug usage for religious reasons, drug distribution in these countries will damage their society, create economic hardship, increase welfare costs, and diminish national resilience.

Thirdly, Iran uses international crime not just as a way to make money but also as an endless resource for using criminal organizations to support terrorism and even buy material for its nuclear program.

In the past, Israel, the EU, and the U.S. have at times cooperated in opposing such activities, but Dostri is skeptical about these efforts:

Such global cooperation will be complicated now, as the Biden administration follows the Obama administration’s course of action to get Iran back into the nuclear accord in exchange for several significant concessions. In this political climate, Israel will find it difficult to persuade the U.S. administration to undertake coordinated and large-scale operations against criminal organizations affiliated with Iran—a move that could endanger discussions for a renewed agreement. As a result, it is conceivable to offer the Americans a form of compromise in which Israel and the U.S. will focus on prosecuting Hizballah members involved in narcoterrorism while turning a blind eye to such activity affiliated [directly] with Iran.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Crime, Drugs, Iran, Terrorism, U.S. Foreign policy

Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority