Middle East

Saudi prince in Beirut airport mega-bust

Posted on October 27th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , .

Middle EastWell this is rich. Just one month after a Qatari diplomat was busted for hashish smuggling at Egypt's main airport, AFP news service now reports that Saudi Arabia's Prince Abdel Mohsen bin Walid Bin Abdulaziz and four companions were detained at Beirut International Airport in what Lebanese authorities are calling the biggest bust in the facility's history. The prince was popped while "attempting to smuggle about two tons of Captagon pills and some cocaine," a security source told AFP. The source said the drugs had been packed into cases that were waiting to be loaded onto a private plane headed to Saudi Arabia—a whopping 40 suitcases full of Captagon, according to Lebanese media accounts.

Iran considers cannabis legalization?

Posted on October 27th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , , .

Middle EastOxford University scholar Maziyar Ghiabi has a startling piece in Britain's The Conversation website (reprinted in The Independent) asserting that Iran's leaders are considering legalization of cannabis and opium. The Islamic Republic certainly lives up to its rep as a puritanical police state. Ghiabi admits that up to 70% of its inmates are charged with drug-related offenses (out of a total prison population of some 225,000, according to the World Prison Brief website). We've also noted that a recent surge in executions in Iran is contributing to a global spike in use of the death penalty over the past two years. As Ghiabi writes: "Drug traffickers risk harsh punishments that include the death penalty." But he also informs us that Iran is now pursuing the kind of harm reduction policies that actvists have been long pressing for in the US, including "distribution of clean needles to injecting drug users, methadone substitution programmes (also in prisons) and a vast system of addiction treatment."

Qatari diplomat busted for hashish smuggling

Posted on August 19th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , .

Middle EastIn a short and little-noted story Aug. 19, the Cairo Post reported that Qatari diplomat Mohammed bin Abdullah al-Hajri was arrested for hashish possession at the airport upon flying into Egypt. Qatar's Ministry of Froeign Affairs issued a formal apology. There's quite an irony here. Qatar is by far the most conservative of the Persian Gulf states. The report notes that relations between Qatar and Egypt have been "frigid" since the ouster of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi in 2013. When the new regime of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took over, Egypt returned $2 billion that Qatar had given in aid. Since then, Cario has suspected Qatar of backing the Islamist opposition. And while Qatar has joined the US-led coalition agianst ISIS, it has also been accused of supporting the more "moderate" (sic) jihadists in Syria, like the Nusra Front (which the US is also bombing). And of course Qatar's jihadist friends in Syria are avidly burning the country's cannabis fields.

Israel's 'king' of medical marijuana profiled

Posted on August 17th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

Middle EastIsraeli newspaper Haaretz on Aug. 15 featured an interview with the "King of Israel's Medical Marijuana Industry," Aharon Lutzky—who rose to this position by chance. The fateful moment came when his son was injured in an industrial accident in the cotton gin at Kibbutz  Gvat, the agricultural collective in Israel's north where he was then living with his family. As part of his rehabilitation process, Lutzky's son began volunteering for the company Tikun Olam—Israel's largest producer of medical marijuana. Tikun Olam eventually asked the elder Lutzky to help by giving them business advice. Lutzky so impressed the owners that they offered him the position of CEO, which he still holds today. The profile provides a fascinating look at the evolution of Israel's ground-breaking medical marijuana program.

Medical marijuana backlash in Israel

Posted on June 15th, 2015 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , .

Middle EastIsrael has been a global leader in medical marijuana, but the country's state-run program is now meeting a backlash amid concerns that it is serving as a cover for recreational use. Israeli news site YNet on June 15 reports that the new director of Ichilov Hospital at Tel Aviv's Sourasky Medical Center, former Health Ministry director general Ronni Gamzu, has sent out a memo to his staff instructing that cannabis prescriptions be given only to patients with terminal cancer, and only with approval of the hospital's Oncology Ward. Gamzu's memo also instructs doctors to consider revoking the permits of patients who come to the hospital's pain clinic with cannabis prescriptions.

Saudi Arabia carries out 84th execution this year —for drug smuggling

Posted on May 17th, 2015 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , .

Middle EastSaudi Arabia on May 17 beheaded a Pakistani man convicted of drug trafficking, bringing to 84 the number of executions in the kingdom so far this year. The pan-Arab news agency Al Bawaba  reports that the convict was beheaded in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, after being found guilty of attempting to traffic heroin into the kingdom in balloons he had swallowed. In 2014, Saudi Arabia carried out a total of 87 executions, so it is about to break last year's record not even halfway through 2015. Some of these have won much attention in the countries the convicts hailed from. On April 16, Saudi Arabia beheaded an Indonesian female domestic worker, just two days after executing another woman from the Southeast Asian country. In January, Saudi authorities publicly beheaded Laila Bint Abdul Muttalib Basim, a Muslim woman from Burma who was convicted of murder, in the holy city of Mecca. Footage of the execution showed Basim being dragged into a street and held down by four police officers as she repeatedly shouted, "I did not kill, I did not kill." Basim then screamed as a sword-wielding executioner struck her neck. Second and third blows completed the beheading and authorities quickly removed her body from the street.

Yemen war fuels dope-for-guns trade

Posted on March 29th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , .

Middle EastThe dizzyingly escalating crisis across the Middle East was ratcheted up several degrees last week as Saudi Arabia and its Gulf State allies intervened in Yemen, launching air-strikes against the Shi'ite rebels that have seized much of the country. Saudi troops are amassing on the border and there are fears that the air campaign, dubbed "Operation Decisive Storm," may soon be followed by a ground invasion. Within Yemen, Sunni tribes and militants in al-Qaeda's orbit are also battling the Shi'ite rebels, known as Houthis. (CNN, Al Jazeera, March 29; Yemen Post, March 22)

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."

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