222. Telegram 6127 From the Embassy in Iran to the Department of State1 2

[Page 1]

Kuwait pass Muscat and Abu Dhabi


  • Narcotics Traffic in Gulf

Summary: Rumors persist of major narcotics smuggling route through Gulf, but little convincing evidence available. Detailed evidence needed if we are to stimulate GOI to effective action to close that route. End summary

Action requested: Addressees requested supply whatever information available, including bio data on arrested Iranians.

For some time we have been concerned by local rumors and statements from Washington that narcotics are being smuggled from Iran to other Gulf states and presumably thence into world markets. We are aware of seizures of small quantities of opium from Iranian pilgrims to Mecca, but only report that we have [Page 2]seen providing evidence tying Iran to smuggling of commercial quantities of opium is Manama’s A-6 of March 28, 1972, which does not indicate how Bahraini authorities ascertained origin of seized opium. US Mission to Iranian Gendarmerie (Genmish) recently heard report that 80 kg of opium, source unknown, was due to be smuggled by dhow from Port of Tiz near Bahar to Dubai, but unable confirm. We have also recently been told that opium being smuggled by sea into SE Iran and possibly beyond from Pakistan. Again unable to confirm.
Most of our sources for statements about drug smuggling through Gulf appear to base allegations on Gulf’s deserved reputation as route for smuggling everything else. Nevertheless, smuggling vessels captured by Iran to date have yielded gold, currency, watches and other high-duty consumer goods, but no narcotics. Gendarmerie boat battalion personnel who carry out anti-smuggling patrols admittedly not narcotics experts, but it seems highly unlikely they would miss all caches of narcotics if traffic of major proportions, as alleged.
Direct land smuggling routes for Afghan or Pak opium to Gulf would be through extremely difficult terrain. Extent of waterless desert would require use of camels or vehicles, instead of horses as favored in north, which would have to cross long distances without cover from aerial surveillance. Traditional northern route joining road net from Tehran south would be easier route to Gulf, but there have been no seizures to confirm its existence.

To combat whatever narcotics traffic there may be in Gulf we need firm and detailed evidence of its existence and size to bring to attention of GOI enforcement authorities. We would appreciate receiving any such evidence addressees can provide.

For Gulf posts: We would especially appreciate any [Page 3]bio data you can supply on Iranians arrested for drug smuggling. We urge that samples of opium and cannabis seized by host governments be obtained and sent to BNDD for analysis and possible determination of origin.

For Islamabad and Kabul: Is there evidence of Afghan opium being channeled into or through Pakistan to Gulf? In spite of Qamar ul Islam statement (State 178560) that Pak coastal traffic under control, is there evidence of illicit opium from any source leaving Pakistan by sea?

If such information is made availabe, we are convinced Iranian Gendarmerie will make good use of it. Such information will also be valuable assistance to us in our efforts encourage Gendarmerie to build up boat battalions’ capabilities through improved incentives, organization and equipment. We hope that in coming year tests conducted by ARPA will prove utility in Gulf of relatively simple technology which will permit detection any vessel moving in Straits of Hormuz. That will not solve prorlem of smugglers in international waters but will greatly enhance ability deal with those that enter Iranian waters.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, SOC 11–5 IRAN. Confidential. Repeated to Kabul, Islamabad, Manama, Kuwait, Jidda, Karachi, Dhahran, and BNDD.
  2. Ambassador Farland observed that although rumors abounded that narcotics were being smuggled from Iran, the evidence needed to approach the Iranian Government was lacking.