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Iran Report: September 13, 2006

September 13, 2006, Volume 9, Number 34

U.S. PRESIDENT ISSUES WARNING ABOUT IRANIAN INTENTIONS. The White House released the U.S. "National Strategy for Combating Terrorism" on September 5, and a few hours later, President George W. Bush, speaking at the Capital Hilton Hotel in Washington, discussed Iran's alleged role in terrorism, according to Radio Farda and the presidential website.

Bush said, "the Iranian regime has clear aims" that he described as driving the United States out of the region, destroying Israel, and dominating the Middle East. Those goals have led Iran to fund and arm Hizballah, Bush said. He also accused "the Iranian regime and its terrorist proxies" of a willingness to kill Americans, alleged efforts to do so in connection with Lebanese Hizballah and with Saudi Hizballah, and what his administration believes is Tehran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.

"The international community has made a reasonable proposal to Iran's leaders, and given them the opportunity to set their nation on a better course," he said in a reference to an offer made to Tehran in June but seemingly rejected in August. Bush warned Iran's leaders against isolating the country and harming its economy through their actions.

Bush said in his September 5 speech that both Shi'ite extremists -- which he described as having "taken control of a major power, the nation of Iran," in 1979 -- and Sunni extremists "seek to impose a dark vision of violent Islamic radicalism across the Middle East," the White House website reported.

Bush referred to a "global struggle" and cited his administration's "National Strategy for Combating Terrorism." That document refers to Iran several times. It says Iran "continue[s] to harbor terrorists at home and sponsor terrorist activity abroad." The strategy states that U.S. sanctions against Iran are meant to end its state sponsorship of terrorists. The document alleges roles by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security in the planning of and support for operations by Hamas, Hizballah, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as well as Tehran's failure to "account for and bring to justice senior [Al-Qaeda] members it detained in 2003."

The document adds, "Most troubling is the potential WMD-terrorism nexus that emanates from Tehran."

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on September 6 that Bush's comments about Iran in the previous day's speech were "repetitive and baseless," the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. Such claims are meant to counter Iran's reasonable and determined effort to protect its rights, Assefi said. The U.S. presence in Iraq contributes to terrorism there, Assefi claimed, adding, "There is now the general belief that the terrorist moves in Iraq take place under U.S. direction and support."

Assefi also hinted at U.S. responsibility for the September 11, 2001, attacks against the United States by Al-Qaeda, saying, "On the threshold of the anniversary of the September 11 explosion of the twin towers and five years after the event, which is still ambiguous, the U.S. officials intend to justify their failure and blunder."

Assefi urged Bush to accept his Iranian counterpart's invitation to engage in a televised debate (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," September 4, 2006). (Bill Samii)

AHMADINEJAD ADDRESSES BUSH AT RELIGIOUS CONFERENCE. Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad gave the opening speech at the second International Conference on Mahdaviyat Doctrine in Tehran on September 6, IRNA and Fars News Agency reported. The purpose of the conference is to "promote the culture and thoughts of the last imam of the age and last descendant of Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH [peace be upon him]) infallible household -- Imam Mahdi [may God hasten his reappearance]."

The Mahdi is the Shi'a's 12th imam and went into occultation some 1,200 years ago; his reappearance is supposed to restore justice before the end of the world. Ahmadinejad's affinity for these beliefs has been noted by some observers (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," December 19, 2005, and July 18, 2006).

A sign of Ahmadinejad's beliefs was his statement in the speech: "Today is the day when we invite humanity to the only true path and course because there is no other path." He also referred to his earlier invitation to President Bush to debate him, saying, "we're ready to assess the problems of the world in a face-to-face debate and to think of solutions for them and to allow humanity to choose; of course, it must be uncensored." (Bill Samii)

KHATAMI CRITICIZES U.S. DURING CHICAGO VISIT. Former Iranian President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami told CNN during a September 3 visit to Chicago that international terrorism is the result of U.S. foreign policy, and he warned that those policies will contribute to regional "extremism." Khatami is in Iran for a two-week visit; the last U.S. president to visit Iran was Jimmy Carter some 30 years ago. Khatami had a message for President Bush: "I would tell him that the United States, with all of its might and resources, can, side by side with the good people of the Middle East, bring about a new experience and the creation of democracy and the advancement of democracy, even though the way to democracy may have been slow originating in the Mideast." He called for an end to threatening language, and said Iranians fear the United States will attack their country. (Bill Samii)

UN CHIEF CALLS FOR IRANIAN COOPERATION. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan during a September 7 press conference in Madrid urged the Islamic Republic to be more cooperative with efforts to determine the status of its nuclear program, RFE/RL reported. "I think we should insist that Iran reassures the international community that its intention is [peaceful], it has no hidden agenda as it says," he said. "But, if that is the case, it has the responsibility to take steps to reassure all of us that their intentions are peaceful and remove that cloud of uncertainty and doubt that surrounds their [nuclear] program." Annan made similar points during a September 6 press conference in Ankara, RFE/RL reported. "I have urged Iran to do whatever it can to reassure the international community that indeed its intentions are peaceful and find ways and means through complete openness to the inspectors of the [International Atomic Energy Agency] to remove the cloud of doubt that surrounds its intentions." (Bill Samii)

IRAN UNCOMPROMISING ON NUCLEAR PROGRAM. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan visited Iran on September 2 and 3, Radio Farda and other news agencies reported. After meeting with President Ahmadinejad on September 3, Annan said at a press conference with Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki that he was told Iran will not stop its uranium-enrichment program but is willing to enter negotiations regarding the nuclear program.

Mottaki described Security Council Resolution 1696 of late July, which calls on Iran to halt its enrichment and reprocessing activities, as politically motivated and the result of pressure from the United States and Britain.

Annan also noted that Ahmadinejad restated Iran's backing for Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the recent Israel-Hizballah conflict. Tehran has not agreed to back the disarmament of Hizballah, Annan's aides said, according to "The New York Times." The aides described Ahmadinejad as "confident, brash, and uncompromising" and eager to show that the United States and Britain are "fading powers paying a price for meddling in the Middle East."

Part of the continuing efforts to persuade Iran to suspend its uranium-enrichment and -reprocessing activities in exchange for various incentives and in order to avoid international sanctions would be a meeting between Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani and EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana. Tehran responded to an international proposal addressing these issues with a lengthy counterproposal, and the meeting would be an opportunity to discuss what anonymous diplomats told AFP on September 5 is an "at best, unclear" Iranian text.

Anonymous diplomats said on September 5 that the meeting probably would take place on September 6 in Vienna, AFP reported. Vienna's "Der Standard" daily issued a similar report on September 5, but EU spokeswoman Christina Gallach would not confirm the possibility, according to the paper.

The Iranian envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asqar Soltanieh, said on September 6 that talks between Iran and the EU regarding the nuclear issue have been postponed, AP reported. Soltanieh said, "Both sides are arranging for a couple of days later." Soltanieh ascribed the delay to "a procedural matter."

In Tehran, Foreign Minister Mottaki said on September 6 that Iran-EU talks are welcome, Mehr News Agency reported. He said the two sides are determining a convenient date.

Larijani said on September 7 in Madrid that Tehran is determined to "hold serious and constructive talks" with the so-called 5+1 group on a range of issues, IRNA reported. This refers to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), plus Germany, which in June offered Iran a package of incentives in exchange for its suspending uranium-enrichment and -reprocessing activities and cooperating more fully with nuclear.

Larijani met with Italian Premier Romano Prodi on September 8.

Larijani expressed optimism about an upcoming meeting with Javier Solana. Solana said on September 7 that the meeting would take place on September 9, AP reported. He did not disclose the location.

A document drawn up by France, Germany, and Britain and sent to dozens of other countries reveals doubts about Tehran's intentions, AP reported on September 6. The 5+1 group met in Berlin on September 6 to discuss the Iranian problem, and the document warned, "The Iranian goal obviously is to split the international community." It adds that Iran wants to "draw us into a process of talks about talks, on Iranian terms, while making no commitments of its own while continuing with its enrichment program."

Larijani and Solana met in Vienna on September 9. (Bill Samii)

LEGISLATURE MOVES TO BLOCK NUCLEAR INSPECTIONS. The legislature's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee has approved the general outlines of a bill that would suspend international inspectors' access to Iranian nuclear sites, IRNA reported on September 5. Shahrud's Kazem Jalali, the committee's rapporteur, explained, "The single article bill urges the government to call off all [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspections of the Iranian nuclear sites and facilities as soon as UN Security Council embarks on imposing restrictions on Iran," Fars News Agency reported. (Bill Samii)

IRAQI OFFICIAL MEETS IRANIAN LEADERS IN TEHRAN. President Ahmadinejad told visiting Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih on September 6 that insecurity in Iraq is harmful to Iran, the Mehr News Agency reported. He said the "occupation forces" encourage this insecurity as a justification for their continued presence.

Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani told Salih that the development of a free, independent, and Islamic Iraq will benefit the entire region, IRNA reported. Hashemi-Rafsanjani added, "Meanwhile, the chaos in Iraq and interference of foreign troops in the country's internal affairs are the main cause of the insecurity in all regional states." He called for the withdrawal of occupation troops.

Salih said at a press conference with Foreign Minister Mottaki on September 5 that the two neighbors are keen on strengthening relations, the Mehr News Agency reported. They already enjoy cordial ties, he added. Salih also noted the need for a regional "compromise" between Baghdad, Tehran, and Washington. Mottaki also denied that Iran is interfering in Iraqi affairs. (Bill Samii)

NEW EQUIPMENT TESTED DURING WAR GAMES. The Zarbat-i Zolfaqar war games, which began on August 19, are continuing, with the firing of a modified Hawk missile from a U.S.-manufactured F-14 aircraft on September 4, state television reported. During this third stage of the exercises, antiaircraft artillery, missiles, surface-to-air weapons, and electronic countermeasures were tested. A deputy commander of the army, identified as Brigadier General Amin, said the navigation systems of enemy missiles were disrupted using equipment developed by the Iranian air force and Defense Ministry.

Iranian air force jets successfully fired laser-guided bombs on September 6, the Fars News Agency reported. The test took place in northwestern Iran during the fifth stage of the Zarbat-i Zolfaqar war games. The domestically made Saqeh fighter jet also flew in these exercises. Brigadier General Javad Mohammadian, the spokesman of the war games, said the Saqeh provides close-air support and can carry bombs, rockets, and missiles, Fars reported.

Major General Ataollah Salehi, speaking in Shabestar, East Azerbaijan Province, explained that external threats are the reason for the exercises, IRNA reported. Salehi is commander of the regular army. (Bill Samii)

IRAN ANNOUNCES AEROSPACE DEVELOPMENTS. Rasul Peighambari, the managing director of the Negin Pars Company, said on September 4 that his firm has developed radar-deflecting and radar-absorbing paints, Mehr News Agency reported. Seven tons of camouflage and 50 tons of antiradar paint have been produced so far, he said, and Iran no longer needs to import such products.

One day earlier, Mohammad Islami, the head of the defense industry's training and education institute, said his organization and the Shahid Beheshti University have successfully collaborated in building a "nondestructive laser testing system for testing thermal and mechanical effects on satellites in space, as well as designing and building a plasma thruster," ILNA reported. Islami explained, "Thrusters are little engines that are used for controlling and correcting the movement of dynamic systems such as satellites." (Bill Samii)

LEBANON RECONSTRUCTION INTERESTS IRAN. Parliament speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel said during a September 4 phone conversation with his Lebanese counterpart, Nabih Berri, that Iran is ready to lend a hand in rebuilding Lebanon, IRNA reported. Haddad-Adel also said Israel's blockade of Lebanon is a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which brought an end to the one-month conflict triggered by Hizballah's cross-border raid and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers on July 12. Haddad-Adel added, "The occupying regime of Qods [Israel] thrives on bloodshed, violations of international rules and regulations, and the massacre of defenseless women and children."

Iranian Vice President for Executive Affairs Ali Saidlu, Minister of Housing and Urban Development Mohammad Saidi-Kia, and a delegation of other Iranian officials arrived in Beirut on August 29, Hizballah's Al-Manar television and IRNA reported. During a press conference later that day, Saidlu pledged Iran's assistance in reconstructing Lebanon and said delegations from "a number of Iranian municipalities that enjoy good financial status" -- such as Tehran, Mashhad, and Isfahan -- could contribute, Al-Manar reported. (Bill Samii)

CONTRADICTORY PERSPECTIVES ON BACKING FOR NASRALLAH. Israeli Interior Minister Avi Dichter said in an interview published in Turin's "La Stampa" on September 4 that Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah acted contrary to Iranian desires by attacking Israel hastily, and Hizballah gained nothing worthwhile in the conflict. Therefore, he continued, "Nasrallah is in trouble." Dichter pointed at Iranian support for Hamas and Hizballah, as well as its alleged pursuit of a nuclear weapon and intention to "use it in order to destroy us and to beat the entire West." "Ahmadinejad truly is the new Hitler," Dichter said, adding that Ahmadinejad wants to attack Israel, but he recognizes "attacking Israel is no joke."

Grand Ayatollah Lotfullah Safi-Golpayegani has a different perspective, "Kayhan" reported on September 3. "The Hizballah in Lebanon and its secretary-general, Hojatoleslam val-Moslemin Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, are a source of pride for the Islamic world," he said. Safi-Golpayegani criticized those who passed religious decrees against Hizballah's actions during the conflict with Israel and accused them of siding with Israel indirectly. (Bill Samii)

AHMADINEJAD ADVISES STUDENTS TO REJECT LIBERAL THINKING, RECTORS TO AVOID POLITICS. President Ahmadinejad told students in Tehran on September 5 -- National Youth Day -- that they must object to liberal thinking in the universities, state radio reported. "Today's young students, in universities, must shout at the president: 'Sir, why does this secular gentleman [lecturer] come and, if I say something contrary to what he says, penalize me in my marks?'" Ahmadinejad said. "In other words, young students must shout against a liberal economy, against liberal thinking." Ahmadinejad further advised university heads to avoid politics. (Bill Samii)

CAUSE OF POLITICAL PRISONER'S DEATH DISPUTED. Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MEK) sympathizer Valiollah Feyz-Mahdavi died on September 6 in Tehran's Shariati Hospital, Radio Farda reported, citing Iranian websites. Feyz-Mahdavi was sentenced to death for possession of explosives and confined at Rajai-Shahr Prison in Karaj, and fellow detainees told Radio Farda that he fell ill on September 2, nine days after beginning a hunger strike. Prison officials denied that he was on a hunger strike, saying instead that Feyz-Mahdavi attempted suicide.

Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, one of Feyz-Mahdavi's lawyers, told Radio Farda that other detainees told him his client got sick during his hunger strike, was taken to the prison infirmary, and then taken to the hospital. Subsequently, the attorney continued, news of his being brain dead was released, and then of his death. It was not in Feyz-Mahdavi's nature to kill himself, Dadkhah continued, and it is difficult to commit suicide in prison. He asked "who are the witnesses to the suicide attempt?" Dadkhah suggested that his client died because he did not receive medical attention. (Bill Samii)

SATELLITE DISH CONFISCATION SPREADS. The social affairs and guidance office of the Abadan police department announced on September 7 that police in the southern city have confiscated more than 100 sets of satellite receiving equipment, Fars News Agency reported. The operation is continuing. Satellite receiving equipment is illegal in Iran but is tolerated; police intermittently confiscate the equipment, particularly when it is displayed too obviously. The most recent round of dish seizures began in August. Brigadier General Mehdi Mohammadifard, the deputy police chief for parliamentary affairs explained on August 29 that police do not enter private homes, "they merely deal with visible and explicit offenses," Mehr News Agency. He said this is in connection with a 1994 law.

The Abadan legal effort applies to more than satellite equipment, according to Fars, and the police department's social affairs and guidance office said, "Recently a number of residents have been carrying dogs in their cars." Locals were instructed not to transport their dogs this way, and they were warned that drivers would be stopped and turned over to the judiciary. Muslims consider dogs to be unclean. (Bill Samii)

FREEDOM HOUSE DESCRIBES IRAN AS 'NOT FREE.' Freedom House released its annual "Freedom in the World 2006" report on September 7, Radio Farda reported, and Iran was classified as "not free." Iran received scores of six out of seven for both political rights and for civil liberties -- seven is the least-free rating. 192 countries and 14 select territories were surveyed for the report.

Radio Farda goes on to report that in a recent issue of a British magazine called "The New Statesman," Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is cited in a series about "The world's top 10 dictators." The report, by the University of St Andrew's Ali Ansari, notes Khamenei's authoritarianism, as well as contributions to that process by the judiciary and the Guardians Council in its electoral vetting. (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN ACTS TO MEET GASOLINE SHORTFALL. Abbas Kazemi, managing director of the Tehran Refinery, announced on September 6 that his facility currently produces 82 octane gasoline and it soon will produce 90 octane gasoline, Mehr News Agency reported. He added that this development will increase Tehran Refinery's output by 500,000 liters, although he did not provide a timeframe.

Two days earlier, government spokesman Gholam Hussein Elham said Iran's policy is to import gasoline to meet shortfalls, IRNA reported. The government also is considering ways to reduce gasoline consumption, he said, including promoting mass-transit systems and possibly the use of natural gas in vehicles. (Bill Samii)

IRAN'S DRUG PROBLEM GOES BEYOND AFGHAN DELUGE. The head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) called the past year's rise in Afghan opium cultivation "very alarming" when he presented his report to the Afghan government on September 2. Neighboring Iran is the global leader in opium seizures, and the recent rise in opium production is likely to be reflected in higher seizure rates. Iran's drug problem is not merely supply-driven, however, with domestic opium cultivation making a return and the popularity of synthetic drugs on the upswing.

The UNODC reported in 2005 that some 60 percent of the opiates (opium, morphine, and heroin) produced in Afghanistan leave that country via Iran. It makes sense that climbing production figures more recently would be reflected in higher seizure rates. While there are no cumulative data available yet for the year, partial reports nationally and from the provinces support the UNODC contention.

Officials See Problem

The chief of Iran's national police force, General Ismail Ahmadi-Moqaddam, said at the end of August that the seizure of 145 tons of drugs nationwide in the first five months of the Iranian year (which began on March 21) marks a 29 percent increase over the same period last year, IRNA reported on August 29.

Reports from the provinces support the police chief's assertion. The police chief in East Azerbaijan Province, Brigadier Mohammad-Ali Nosrati, said earlier in August that seizures in his area in March-July were up 488 percent, ILNA reported on July 31 and IRNA on August 11. Heroin seizures topped the list, he said. Nosrati added that the number of arrests for drug dealing had more than doubled (a 132 percent increase).

Authorities reported increased drug seizures and many arrests in the southwestern Ilam Province and the Western Azerbaijan Province. In both provinces, authorities also reported significant numbers of arrests for smuggling, dealing, and drug abuse -- including a jump of more than 50 percent in Ilam's abuse statistic.

Growing Opium Cultivation

Tehran tends to look at domestic drug abuse as a supply-driven issue that can be addressed mainly through interdiction and law enforcement. But a resurgence of domestic opium cultivation suggests that the problem is more complicated.

Ayatollah Mohieddin Haeri-Shirazi, a provincial representative for Iran's supreme leader, warned in early July that forests in southern Fars Province are being converted into opium-poppy farms, "Kayhan" reported on July 2. He did not attempt to explain the phenomenon.

But joblessness and other economic woes -- as well as governmental failures -- were cited earlier this year to explain resurgent opium cultivation in Kohkiluyeh va Boirahmad Province.

...And Other Drugs

Opiates originating in Afghanistan are not the only illicit drugs that Iranians are using. Ecstasy (MDMA) was once smuggled into Iran from Europe, but is now frequently produced locally. Other "club drugs" -- such as GHB, Ketamine, LSD, methamphetamines (crank), and Rohypnol -- also appear to be gaining in popularity.

Sniffer dogs in Semnan Province, east of Tehran, uncovered 24 kilograms of concentrated heroin -- known in Iran as "crystal" -- during two vehicle inspections in Shahrud in late August, the Baztab website reported on August 24.

The head of the Justice Department and local public prosecutor in the northeastern city of Nishabur, Hojatoleslam Abbas Ali Fakhrara, said in late June that young people are increasingly turning to ecstasy and crystal, "Khayyam Nameh" reported on July 13.

Counternarcotics experts speculate that the crystallized heroin is smoked. It is highly addictive because it is also highly concentrated -- 15 to 20 kilograms of opium are required for 1 kilogram of crystal, while the normal opium-to-heroin ratio tends to be 10:1.

Emphasis On Interdiction

Tehran's emphasis on supply-interdiction versus demand-reduction has undergone changes in recent years. Each approach has its proponents. Initially, the government had a law-and-order approach that considered any drug-related offense a serious crime. Penalties for narcotics trafficking were heavy -- possession of more than 30 grams of heroin or 5 kilograms of opium could result in the death penalty. More than 10,000 narcotics traffickers and drug users have been executed in recent decades in Iran, and hundreds more currently face execution. Addicts were arrested and jailed.

This approach filled prisons, but addiction rates continued to rise as the average age of drug users fell. The strategy changed during the latter years of Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami's presidency (1997-2005), and an increasing amount of the drug-control budget was shifted to demand-reduction efforts and to treating addicts.

Authorities have also emphasized interrupting the flow of drugs from Afghanistan. They claim millions of dollars were spent on building static defenses along the 1,800-kilometer border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. Such efforts are continuing. National police chief Ahmadi-Moqaddam said in late July that "Iran intends to close 400 kilometers of its eastern borders" by mid-December (the end of Azar), Fars News Agency reported on July 27. Ahmadi-Moqaddam touted authorities' use of "physical measures and...human resources, [and] electronic and aerial devices."

Within a month, Ahmadi-Moqaddam said 100 kilometers of the southeastern border in Sistan va Baluchistan had been sealed, state radio reported on August 19. He added that work was "progressing fast."

The creation in April in the same province of a base for coordinating police, military, and other security agencies is part of the effort. Rasul-i Akram base's deputy commander, General Qasem Rezai, said in early August that some 100 bulldozers and other heavy equipment are involved with sealing the eastern border, "Jomhuri-yi Islami" reported on August 10. As he listed the number of patrols initiated by the base, as well as the number of arrests and seizures, the deputy commander claimed that while bandits are no longer safe, locals have a greater sense of security.

A parliamentary representative from the southeastern city of Zahedan, Hussein Ali Shahriari, has expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the Rasul-i Akram base, "Kargozaran" reported on August 15. Shahriari called it a "major strategic mistake" to believe that a single base could salvage the security situation in the regions. He blamed a lack of police officers, and said much more is required to solve the problem. Shahriari cited poverty and unemployment among the culprits, and said investors fear the risk in the same areas. He lamented that "expecting the government to do something to make the private sector active and create job opportunities and wealth is apparently a vague dream that will never be fulfilled."

Demand Reduction

Iran's state Welfare Organization's prevention and addiction-treatment department claims that 8 percent of the population is addicted to drugs, "Mardom-Salari" reported on June 22. An official in the same department, Mehrdad Ehterami, noted that Iran sees 90,000 new drug addicts every year, with more than 180,000 people treated for addiction in the state or private sector. He listed 51 government facilities, 457 private outpatient centers, and an additional 26 transition centers that exist to combat the problem.

The provincial prosecutor in Ardabil is a critic of existing drug-control policies. Hojatoleslam Rabii argues that the activities of the Drug Control Headquarters and the police are not coordinated, according to "Hemayat" on July 30. He claims legislation is contradictory, with "drug addiction...regarded as a crime" while "addicts are portrayed as patients who must be cured." Rabii contends that attempts to control drug trafficking must be more focused or investment to cure addicts increased. Harsh sentences alone for drug traffickers won't work, he says.

Clearly, the Iranian government recognizes the extent of the drug problem it faces. Still, it does not appear to have decided on a preferred approach. The head of Iran's Drug Control Headquarters, Fada Hussein Maleki, insisted in early August that his organization and the Expediency Council have formulated general counternarcotics policies, and that they have been referred to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for his approval, "Hemayat" reported on August 2.

Iranian officials no doubt hope that once that happens, they might reverse the current trend of rising drug abuse. (Bill Samii)