With ISIS’s unexpectedly tight grab over parts of Syria, Lybia and Iraq, this terrorist organization is becoming a power to reckon with in the region, whether we like it or not. Proclaiming, among other things, values of traditional, ‘pure’ Islam, ISIS is known to show zero tolerance to any form of drugs or drug addiction effects, regardless of origin. Recently some sources monitoring the situation in the region, have been reporting about ‘Narco-Jihad’ threats being outspoken by the ISIS command.
It’s never easy to understand the Middle East in regard to many subjects, and drugs being a perfect example. The region is historically known as major production center for poppy, heroin and, most notably, hashish, which is basically the local form of hemp. Nevertheless, traditional Islam strictly prohibits the use of drugs, and Shariatic laws provide severe punishments for drug abuse, even in medicinal purposes. Involvement in hashish trade would be the deadliest of sins, yet, anecdotally this kind of business employs more people than export of oil.
According to Abdelkader Cheref, a notable Middle East observer and professor at New York State University, ‘tremendous quantities of hashish transit from Morocco flow freely through the Sahara no-man’s land triangle controlled by radicals, from where they are being smuggled into Europe’. This suggests that Moroccan drug dealers are somehow linked to the so-called ‘narco-jihadists’ within ISIS or Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Controversial as it may seem, but DEA has also published intelligence data showing that ‘North African drug traffickers are forming alliances with radical Islam militants controlling the region, and, by sharing their profits, thus provide additional funding to the terrorist organizations’.
Taking into account the above said, all ‘narco-jihad’ threats outspoken by ISIS sound pointless, but nothing is simple in the Middle East, and logic of plots within plots should often be applied. Radicals may allow temporary cooperation with drug dealers, as long as they see it beneficial, but no one would be surprised if they turned on their former allies the next day. Prof. Cheref notes that the Moroccan king Mohammed VI has already received a number of threats by ISIS, where it is strictly proclaimed that hashish ventures within his kingdom will not be tolerated. So it is hard to predict whether and how soon the radicals will stop secretly supporting the traffic, and turn on the ones who run it.