Middle East

Hezbollah connection to Suriname narco-state —not!

Posted on March 11th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , .

CaribbeanHere we go again: the headline says one thing, the actual text (if you read carefully enough) something else entirely. In the relentless effort to hype a Middle East terrorist connection to the Latin American narco-traffic, the feds just scored a real coup. Dino Bouterse, the son of Suriname's current president and former military dictator Desi Bouterse, was on March 10 sentenced in federal court in New York City to 16 years for attempting to provide material support to Hezbollah, along with narco-trafficking and firearms charges. Bouterse, who was arrested in Panama in 2013 and pled guilty, was an architect of Suriname's Counter-Terrorism Unit (of course).  "Dino Bouterse was supposed to oppose terrorism," said US attorney Preet Bharara. "Instead, Bouterse betrayed his official position and tried to support and aid Hezbollah, including his agreement to assist Hezbollah in acquiring weapons, and conspiring to import cocaine to the US. Today he has been sentenced to a lengthy prison term for those odious crimes."

Israel: legalization goes mainstream

Posted on March 9th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

Middle EastCannabis legalization as a political platform in Israel has traditionally been the domain of the Green Leaf Party, an idealistic, single-issue effort which has yet to gain even one seat in the Knesset. But Israeli news site YNet reported March 3 that Meretz, a traditional party of the center-left, held a confab at the Zionist Organization of America building in Tel Aviv to promote medical marijuana (at least), with more general legalization also discussed. Entertainment was provided by topical hip-hop/funk outfit Hadag Nachash before headlining speakers including Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg and Dr. Rick Doblin of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). Yarden Gazit of the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies (JIMS) protested that more than 18,000 criminal cases are opened a year for cannabis-related offenses—despite the fact that only 25% of Israel's populace supports criminalization. Urged  Zandberg in her closing remarks: "If you are a leftist, if you support legalization—vote Meretz."

ISIS on meth: evidence mounts

Posted on February 11th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , , .

ISISOK, some of the sources have axes to grind, but claims are mounting that the ultra-puritanical ISIS are stoned out of their minds on meth. Reuters reported last month that the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has noted a surge in trafficking across the Middle East of Captagon, brand-name of fenethylline—an amphetamine notorious for its popularity among militants fighting in Syria and Iraq. Black-market knock-offs of the stuff are being produced by armed factions in Syria, both to fund their insurgencies and for their own fighters' use. Reuters said, "Syrian government forces and rebel groups each say the other uses Captagon to endure protracted engagements without sleep." We're sure they're both right.

Lebanon legalization push

Posted on February 3rd, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

Middle EastWalid Jumblatt is a name that was frequently in the news when Lebanon's civil war was raging back in the 1980s. The longtime leader of the Druze ethnicity is still around, now an MP with the Progressive Socialist Party—and has emerged as Lebanon's foremost voice for cannabis legalization. Noting the resilient hashish economy in the Bekaa Valley, Jumblatt has actually been pushing cannabis as a cornerstone of security and economic development in Lebanon, which shows growing signs of being drawn into the Syrian war. In comments Jan. 14 to daily As-Safir, Jumblatt said: "I hold onto my opinion on the necessity of legalizing the cultivation of hashish... It's time to allow hash to be grown and to overturn arrest warrants against people sought for doing so." 

ISIS burns cannabis, snorts coke?

Posted on January 15th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , .

ISISWe recently noted that the ultra-puritanical ISIS has been burning the cannabis fields in the territory it controls in northern Syria—and that the cannabis farmers of Lebanon are arming to resist any ISIS incursion across the border. Now comes the hilariously predictable news that ISIS fighters might be snorting cocaine to keep their spirits up! On Jan. 6, the Kurdish Daily News posted a video from the town of Kobani in northern Syria, where local Kurdish fighters have been resisting an ISIS siege since September. The footage shows Kurdish fighters holding a stash of white powder in a big plastic bag just taken from the house of an ISIS commander. Kurdish fighters interviewed on camera said the house had been seized from an ISIS "emir" (as they call their commanders) who had earlier taken it over from local residents. The "emir" was killed in the house-to-house fighting now raging in Kobani, and his home searched. In addittion to lots of weapons (of course), the coke stash was found. The Kurdish fighters said they believed the emir was distributing coke to his own followers to fuel their fighting spirit.

Lebanon's hashish valley arms against ISIS

Posted on January 7th, 2015 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , .

ISISReporting from Lebanon's hashish heartland of the Bekaa Valley on Jan. 5 Public Radio International spoke to cannabis farmers who say they are ready to resist any ISIS incursion into their fastness. Ali Nasri Shamas, who runs a  mechanized hashish factory in Bouday village, took up arms in 2007 to resist Lebanese government eradication forces. This paid off; the army hasn't been back since 2012. But now the Lebanese army and hash producers are confronting the same enemy. Although officially a wanted man for 35 years now, Shamas happily talks on-camera, alongside a three-ton yield of hash, flanked by masked employees, amid the clatter of processing machines.

2014: international drug war round-up

earth2014 witnessed considerable fraying of the international Drug War consensus—but the horrific violence that finally sparked this long-overdue reckoning continued to take its grim toll. On the upside, Uruguay regsitered its first cannabis clubs, and Jamaica is now studying a decrim initiative. In a very hopeful sign, regional bodies in the Caribbean and West Africa are following suit with studies of potential decrim or legalization. And signs of the failure of the prohibitionist model kept mounting. For a second consecutive year, opium cultivation in Afghanistan broke all previous records—despite some $7 billion spent by the US to combat Afghan opium over the past decade. Hashish busts at sea—especially the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean—also soared. Saudi Arabia went on a beheading spree, targeting drug convicts (as well as those found guilty of adultery, "sorcery" and other such wackery). ISIS (whose beheadings somehow sparked far greater media outrage) started eradicating the cannabis fileds of northern Syria, after the Syrian civil war had sparked a regional hashish boom, with a profusion of militias needing narco-profits to fund their insurgencies. The same cycle that Afghanistan saw with both hashish and opium when the Taliban was in power before 9-11.

Saudi Arabia goes on beheading spree

Posted on September 19th, 2014 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , .

Middle EastWhile ISIS has sparked global outrage with its beheading of journalists (and less global outrage for its beheading of captive Kurdish and Syrian fighters), US ally Saudi Arabia has been on a beheading spree of its own. We've noted that Saudi Arabia is among the Middle Eastern nations responsible for a global execution spike. Al Jazeera reported on Sept. 2 that Saudi Arabia carried out more than one execution per day in the first three weeks of August. The Saudi Ministry of Justice has announced the execution of 26 since Aug. 4. In the seven months prior to that date, 15 executions were carried out, bringing the total number to 41 so far this year. Drug charges have been prominent. Four were beheaded in the southwestern city of Najran on Aug. 18 after being convicted of smuggling "a large quantity of hashish" into the country. The Saudi Press Agency boasted that King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud and his government are taking aggressive measures against the "social ill of narcotics" and meting out punishment "according to Sharia." Creepily, a man was beheaded Aug. 19 in the northern city of Qurayyat on charges of "sorcery." Amnesty International denounced what it called a "disturbing surge" in executions in the desert kingdom. "The Saudi Arabian authorities must halt all executions," the group said, adding that some beheadings were "reportedly on the basis of forced confessions extracted through torture."

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