The Return of the Militias

The chaos in the Middle East we are witnessing is more complex than a simple foreign conspiracy to destabilize the Middle East. We have already discussed in the Greater Middle East Project and the Genesis of ISIS as to how the current conflicts in Middle East Region have emanated. While there have been ample write ups on the Wahhabi Sponsored Ultra Jihadists like Jabhat Ul Nusra and ISIS in Syria/Iraq, the writers have tended to ignore the other side of conflict, which is the Shia Militias fighting from Lebanon to Syria to Iraq and Yemen. The covert backing of Shia Armed Militias by the Religious Theocracy in Iran is the other side of conflict, which is an equal participant in the present conflict in Middle East if not less than the Wahhabi Terror Machine. The Conflict in Syria-Iraq and the wider region in Middle East have more of sectarian undertone of a Shia-Sunni conflict than just the foreign participation in the conflicts. While the Sunni Arab States primarily GCC (Saudis, Qatar etc.), Turkey are covertly backing Syrian Rebels, ISIS and Nusra; Shia Iran is backing Militant Groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Syria; Shia Militias in Syria and Iraq and Houthis Rebels in Yemen.  

The Shia-Sunni Faultlines

The Shia-Sunni conflict that we see in Middle East today is not current but one that has lasted for centuries from the Epic Battle of Karbala in then Mesopotamia or currently Iraq. The roots of current conflict also lie in Post WW1 Era where imperial powers like the British Empire fused the regions of Mosul and Baghdad as Sunni Dominated Areas to balance out the Shia Dominated area of Najaf, Karbala and Basra in Southern Iraq. The Fusion of 2 Sectarian Groups in one state has time and again lead to conflicts. Shia mobilisation and activism in Iraq intensified with the Baathist coup in 1968 and the regime's collective suppression of the community, although some Shias were co-opted. After the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, Shia actors, like the Islamic Dawa Party (of Iraq's former Prime Minister Maliki), mobilised the Shia community to try to overthrow the Baath regime but the attempt failed. 

The 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war then saw various Shia groups take up arms against Saddam Hussein, with patronage from Iran, but this was to no avail as neither side was able to defeat the other during the costly war of attrition. Another rebellion was launched in 1991, following the first Gulf War. Looking to capitalise on a weakened Iraqi army, as well as an apparent endorsement from then US President George HW Bush, Iraqi Shias launched an uprising in mainly Shia provinces of the south. But no US support materialised and the regime's indiscriminate crackdown on the population saw tens of thousands killed. Shia shrines, centres of learning and communities were also destroyed. The scene in Syria was no different with a 70% Sunni Dominated Syria being ruled a Dynasty from the Minority Sect of Alawite (Shia). The Syrian city of Hama was the scene of a massacre in 1982 when President Hafez al-Assad, father of the current president Bashar al-Assad, razed the city to crush a Sunni rebellion lead by Muslim Brotherhood, slaughtering an estimated 20,000 of his own people. The 1982 massacre is regarded as the single bloodiest assault by an Arab ruler against his own people in modern times and remains a pivotal event in Syrian history. There was also a series of car bomb attacks in Damascus culminating in an attack on a shopping centre in which more than 100 people died. Post the quelling of 1982 Revolt Bashar’s father banned Muslim Brotherhood whom ironically Bashar Released post 2011 uprising that contributed to the escalating violence thereafter. Assad regime’s brutal crackdown unlike his father’s time has resulted in a Civil War where nearly 1, 70,000 Syrian have been killed owing to indiscriminate regime bombings of rebel areas.

After the American Troops left in 2011, thousands of Iraqis, nearly all of them members of the Sunni Arab minority, had been gathering to rail against Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government for almost a year. Although the protests were mostly peaceful, security forces responded harshly, detaining thousands of Sunni men without charges and, in one encampment, setting off a spasm of violence that left hundreds of civilians dead. Across the Sunni heartland, north and west of Baghdad, the town squares filled with angry crowds and the rhetoric grew more extreme. A wave of car bombers and suicide bombers struck Baghdad; in January 2014, more than a thousand Iraqi civilians died, the overwhelming majority of them Shiites, making it one of the bloodiest months since the height of the American war. In the effort to put down the upheaval, Maliki ringed the province’s two largest cities, Falluja and Ramadi, with artillery and began shelling. Forty-four Sunni members of parliament resigned. In Falluja and Ramadi, Sunni police abandoned their posts. Maliki, apparently realizing that he had miscalculated, ordered the Army to leave both cities. The Iraqi PM Maliki was not only a Shia, but also served on the committee charged with purging the Iraqi government of former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. Maliki had fled Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war and, except for forays into areas held by Kurdish rebels, he did not return until the Americans invaded, in 2003. The years of his exile were difficult for Shiites in Iraq. Later Maliki moved to Iran, from where he commanded a camp, in a border town called Ahvaz, to train Iraqi fighters for missions against Saddam’s invading Army and stayed in Iran for 7 years. 

Post 2010 Elections, Maliki met Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Quds Force, the Iranian paramilitary corps. Suleimani’s conditions for help in forming the new government were sweeping. Maliki agreed to make Jalal Talabani, the pro-Iranian Kurdish leader, the new President, and to neutralize the Iraqi National Intelligence Service, which was backed by the C.I.A. Most dramatically, he agreed to expel all American forces from the country by the end of 2011. What followed post 2011 American Withdrawal was a series of massacres of Sunnis across Anbar and Northern Iraq which contributed to rise of ISIS and Qaeda in response to Shia Govt and Militias backed by Iran. He also forced out a number of senior officials, notably Sinan al-Shabibi (a Sunni), the governor of the Central Bank of Iraq. Then Iraqi PM Maliki also allowed airlift of guns and fighters unchecked through Iraqi airspace.

Rise of Shia Militias in Iraq

Badr, founded in the 1980s in Iran,( its continued supporter) is not only the most important of the various armed groups composing of the Popular Mobilization Forces (Hashd). Badr’s military commander, Ameri who tried and failed to get an appointment as minister of defence or interior, in part due to U.S. opposition has been transportation minister since Maliki’s second cabinet and is now a parliamentarian. Ameri’s military pre-eminence continued in March with the launch of the operation to liberate Tikrit and northern Salahuddin. Iran, through Badr, initially played more of a role in the offensive than Iraqi leaders did, and photos of the infamous Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani sometimes appeared alongside Ameri himself, dominating media coverage. Badrists carried the Iraqi flag and their own militia’s flag, a yellow-and-green design of a rifle overlaying a picture of Iraq, reminiscent of Lebanese Hezbollah.  Former Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki also belonged to Badr leadership. Badr and other militias sustained criticism that they were engaging in retribution attacks and attempting to cleanse the Sunni population from these areas. Local Sunni families and survivors claimed that members of four prominent Iraqi Shiite militias - Asaib Ahl al-Haq, the Badr Brigades, the Mahdi Army, and Kata’ib Hezbollah were behind many abductions and killings of Sunnis in the country while in the battle against ISIS in Northern Iraq.

Shia Militias in Syria

It is known that the Syrian Armed Forces or Assad’s Army has lost its military capabilities in the last two years and most of the military bases and airports have been captured by Syrian rebel forces, many of their tanks, armoured vehicles and aircraft are either destroyed or captured by Syrian rebel fighters which is a big loss to the Syrian Armed Forces. Most of his sectarian elite forces like 4th Armoured Division, Republican Guard, Intelligence security forces are among the heavy casualties of the Army that are dead, wounded, captured or have escaped. To recover his military loses Assad needed to recruit Shia fighters from abroad to cover up the losses of his army and to have a strong assistance to his troops. 

Some reports suggest that the numbers of foreign Shia fighters are around 40,000. They came from around the world, and are mostly recruited from Lebanon and Iraq with others from Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. They are being motivated religiously and politically to come to Syria to defend the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad and the Shia holy sites in Syria; all of the Shia foreign fighters are supported by Iran and Iranian Revolutionary Guards who pay and trains them regularly in Syria. 

Iran has being supportive of the Syrian Regime military by sending weapons and Shia fighters where Iranian Revolutionary Guards have formed and trained 42 Brigades and 138 Battalions to face the “enemies” in Syria and to defend the Assad Regime. Many Shia fighters use religious slogans such as Ya li Tharati Hussein which means “revenge for Hussein,” and Zaynab la Tusba Marratayn which means “Zaynab, you will not be held captive twice,” showing the belief that the current conflict is simultaneously a defence of Shiite holy sites and an attempt at taking revenge on the Syrians and the Sunnis for their role in the massacre at Karbala, which took place around 1,400 years ago.

Iran has completed the sectarian recruitment for the Shiites around the world to fight in Syria for the Assad Regime, the new recruited militia fighters underwent a fast and intensive military training course, confined to the weapons that have been supplied in the training camps under supervision of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard and with the participation of Syrian officers from the Syrian elite forces. Sometimes those fighters are needed to go to Iran where they will have to enrol on a 45 day training course in order to specialize in using weapons like AK-47, RPG-7, Dragunov Snipers and RPK machineguns and after the completion of the course they will be sent to join a brigade in Syria. 

The training camps are many and are located in different countries. In Syria, they have the Yarfour training camps in Rural Damascus, Sayyidah Zaynab training camp in Damascus and Zahra training camp in Aleppo. In Lebanon they train inside Hezbollah training camps in southern Lebanon and in Iraq they train in Iraqi military training camps in Baghdad in addition to Iranian revolutionary guard training camps in Iran; all of these training camps are being used to prepare the Shiite fighters militarily before sending them to Syria. Assad regime ensures the providing of supplies to its soldiers and foreign fighters, including paying the salaries for most of them and the rest of them are being paid by Iranian and Iraqi Government. The salary range is between $500 - $2,500 depending on the front they are fighting in and the power of the militia they belong to. Major General Qassem Suleimani leads the operations on the ground.

Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard or sometimes called as Iranian Hezbollah was formed in 1979 when Khomeini established the Islamic republic of Iran. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini is the Founder of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps which was used to protect the Revolution, defend the Islamic republic of Iran and to assist the ruling clerics in the daily enforcement of the new government's Islamic codes and morality in the Iranian society. 

The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard participated alongside the Syrian Assad regime in the suppression of the Syrian Revolution in 2011 from the start by sending its military commanders and did not delay sending its members to fight alongside the ranks of the Syrian Assad regime apart from providing training and forming brigades made up of foreign Shia fighters to help the Syrian Armed Forces fighting the rebels across Syria. There are around 1,500-3,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guard Offices active in all across Syria, their primary duty is to gather intelligence and manage the logistics for the Syrian regime and assisting training of local soldiers and managing supply routes of arms and money to neighbouring Lebanon.

Iranian Quds Force: Quds Force “Jerusalem Force” is a Special Forces unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard; this well trained and equipped Iranian force is led by Major General Qassem Suleimani personally. The responsibility of this force is to ensure the safety of Bashar Assad and his family and it accompanies him wherever he stays and goes, they wear civilian clothes and are equipped with small firearms and there are around 1,200 soldiers of this unit in Syria.

Hezbollah: Hezbollah “Party of God” is a Shia militant group and political party in Lebanon and it was formed when Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982. Now Hezbollah is led by Hassan Nasrallah who has sent more than 8,000 fighters to Syria to defend Assad regime and to combat the rebel fighters there, most of Hezbollah fighters are Lebanese Shiites from the south of Lebanon.

Liwa Abu Fadl Al Abbas: Liwa Abu Fadl Al Abbas “Abu Fadl Al Abbas Brigade” is a Syrian Shia militant group that was formed in 2012 to protect the shrine of Sayyidah Zaynab, which is located in Damascus. The Brigade consists of 10,000 fighters (7,000 Iraqis) and is led by the Iraqi Abu Hajer and the Syrian Abu Ajeeb.

Liwa Fatemiyoun: Liwa Fatemiyoun [Fatemiyoun Brigade] is an Afghan Shiite militia that was formed in 2014 by Iranian IRGC to fight against the Syrian revolutionaries. They have participated in many battles in Daraa, Idlib and Aleppo provinces alongside Syrian Arab Army and other pro-Syrian regime militia against Syrian revolutionaries. Liwa Fatemiyoun has around 3,500 fighters and they are led by Alireza Tavassoli (also been observed and commanded by Iranian Officers). The Afghan Shiite fighters are Persian speaking from Iran; it’s the Hazara refugee population.

In addition to the above main groups there are other Shia militias in the region like Kata'ib Hezbollah (Harakat Nujabaa), Haidar al-Karar Brigades (Asa'ib Ahl Al Haq), Liwa Saada, Badr Organization, Sarriya Al Talia Al Khurasani, Faylak Wa’ad Al Sadiq and Liwa Assadu Allahi Ghaleb. 

Rise of Hezbollah

Hezbollah was created by Iran in 1982 as an offensive to aggressively export the late Ayatollah Khomeini’s “Islamic Revolution” among Shiites in Lebanon, Arab countries and throughout the Muslim immigrant communities in Europe. Hezbollah made its mark carrying out its earliest terrorist acts by attacking Westerners and Israelis in Lebanon. Since the mid-1990s Hezbollah has focused increasingly on Europe as a convenient launching pad for terrorist attacks within Israel. Hezbollah has used Europe-based nonprofit front organizations to funnel money from Hezbollah supporters in Europe to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Europe is also a transit point for Hezbollah money derived from drug trafficking and money laundering. 

Hezbollah Operatives have targeted Israeli, U.S. and UK diplomatic installations for surveillance in preparation for planning attacks. In a number of cases, advanced plans for imminent attacks were thwarted by local police in cooperation with international intelligence agencies. Most recently, one such attack was barely averted in Cyprus, but another, a suicide bombing in Bulgaria, killed Israeli tourists. Highlights of Hezbollah's record of terror attacks include suicide truck bombings targeting US and French forces in Beirut (in 1983 and 1984) and U.S. forces again in Saudi Arabia (in 1996). It has a record of suicide bombing attacks targeting Jewish and Israeli interests such as those in Argentina (1992 and 1994) and in Thailand (attempted in 1994), and a host of other plots targeting American, French, German, British, Kuwaiti, Bahraini and other interests in plots from Europe to Southeast Asia to the Middle East.

Iran is believed to fund Hezbollah to the tune of at least $100 million per year. Recently, Western diplomats and analysts in Lebanon estimated Hezbollah receives closer to $200 million a year from Iran. Hezbollah has also employed Narco terrorism by using the proceeds of drug money for a significant part of its funding in Lebanon since the 1980s. Hezbollah’s main narcotics trafficking route until the late 1990s was focused on the Mediterranean. Delivery of heroin from Lebanon and Syria was made to European mafia groups, which would distribute it throughout Western Europe, with the proceeds funnelled back to Hezbollah in Lebanon. In recent years, Hezbollah has increasingly used Europe as a delivery point for cocaine from South America, brought to Europe via Caribbean and Libyan routes. Funds from the sale of cocaine have similarly been transferred via Europe to Lebanon to fund Hezbollah. 

In 2008, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported that German police discovered 8.7 million euros in the luggage of four Lebanese men at Frankfurt airport. An additional 500,000 euros were found in their apartment in Speyer. The money contained traces of cocaine. A year later, German police arrested two Lebanese men who had transferred large sums of money to Lebanese relatives connected to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and the Hezbollah leadership. In December 2011, the U.S. indicted Ayman Joumaa, a Hezbollah financier and Lebanese drug trafficker, with heading a money-laundering and narcotics smuggling network that transported tons of cocaine from South America to the U.S., Africa and Europe. 

Shia-Sunni - The Spinning Vortex

The Rise of Shia Crescent in form of Iran, Shia Govt in Iraq post 2003, Syria (Assad) and Lebanon have opened the Faultlines of the centuries old sectarian conflict between Shia and Sunnis once again. The Rise of ISIS and Nusra cannot simply be attributed to Gulf Arab States but also the Persecution of Sunnis at the hands of the governments in Shia Crescent and their sponsored Shia Militias. This very fact was corroborated when Al Qaeda was pushed into Iraq by Assad in 2006-07 the American Troops along with Sunni Tribes successfully leading the surge and pushing Al Qaeda back but post the American Withdrawal in 2011, the Maliki Government acting in cahoots with Iran targeted Sunni’s in Northern Iraq which precipitated the crisis in 2013-14 leading to rise of ISIS in Iraq.

The Shia-Sunni conflict is not only limited to Syria-Iraq but has also spread over to Yemen where Houthis (another armed Militias backed by Iran) are fighting the Saudi backed Yemenis’ Government. Even other Sunni players in the region like GCC, Egypt, Sudan and Cameroon have joined the Saudi coalition in Yemen which also has the tacit backing of western powers. It’s become a self-sustaining spinning vortex.

Ali Younesi who was Chief of Intelligence for former Iranian president Khatami has recently stated that Iran is back to empire building with Baghdad as its capital. He defined the territory of the Iranian empire, which he called “Greater Iran,” as reaching the borders of China and including the Indian subcontinent, the north and south Caucasus and the Persian Gulf. He said Iraq is the capital of the Iranian Empire a reference to the ancient city of Babylon, in present-day Iraq, which was the center of Persian life for centuries. 

The ancient battle of Karbala and the killing of Ali's sons could become very real and very powerful in the modern setting, especially when both sides are game for the fight. The World Powers, be it United States backing the Sunnis or Russians backing the Shias in Middle East are only adding fuel to fire. The rhetoric on both sides is extremely inflammatory, extremely sectarian, and the atrocities that are happening every day are just furthering this agenda. In all this conflict while humanity pays the price, it is no surprise that once again, the Military Industrial complex of West and Russia is ringing in big bucks by supplying arms to its respective players and sometimes even to both the sides. 

The CIA and Narco Terrorism

One of the primary sources of Funding of Terror in the world is the Global Drug Trade or Narco Terrorism whose proceeds in billions are channeled and used in Funding and Fuelling Conflicts across the world. The World is witnessing Narco Terrorism since centuries and drugs are one of the primary sources of income for terrorist organizations in the world.

The World Drug Trade that fuels Narco Terrorism originates from 3 Regions in the world i.e. South East Asia (Burma-Thailand-Laos-Vietnam) also known as “Golden Triangle”; Iran-Afghanistan-Pakistan also known as ‘Golden Crescent’ and Mexico and Colombian Drug Cartels. The use of Drugs as Narco Terror or a strategic power to target countries is not a recent practice but has been going on since centuries prevalent from the days of Opium Trade and wars by the British in China. To understand Narco Terrorism, it is imperative to understand these 3 Drug Safe Havens in the world.

The Golden Triangle

Opium was introduced to China by Arab traders during the reign of Kublai Khan (1279-94). The drug was highly valued for its medicinal qualities and was grown by some ethnic minorities in South China to raise money to pay tributes to the Chinese Emperors. Opium as a major cash crop was introduced in the Golden Triangle by the British in the colonial period. It was grown as a cash crop for the French as well as the British. But it was the Chinese who once fought for the Kuomintang troops with Chiang Kai-shek against Chairman Mao's Red Army that introduced big time production and smuggling. The British aggressively marketed opium in China. The result: lots of addicts. Some smoked the drug in opium dens. Others took opium pills. Cheap pills known as pen yen gave rise to the expression have a "yen" for something. Chinese who came to the United States in the 19th century to work as laborers brought opium smoking with them. Opium dens opened in San Francisco and towns where Chinese railroad workers stayed. By 1890, there were a number of "smoke houses" in the basements in back-alley buildings in New York. The customers included prostitutes, showgirls, businessmen and tourist as well as Chinamen.

In 1949, the remnant's of Chiang Kai-shek's defeated Kuomingtan (Chinese nationalists) army retreated to the mountain of Burma along the Chinese border and tried to organize attacks against the Red Army. To raise money the Kuomintan encouraged peasant farmers to raise opium, which the Chinese nationalists sold for huge profits. Later the Beijing backed Communist Party of Burma financed their operation with money from the opium and heroin trade. Bert Lintner wrote on Asia Online: “Following Mao Zedong's victory in China in 1949, thousands of Kuomintang soldiers came streaming south, and, supported by the surviving Republic of China government in Taiwan and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) they tried in vain to "liberate" the mainland from their new sanctuaries in Myanmar, then known as Burma. The Kuomintang invasion resulted in a reign of terror for the ordinary people who lived in the areas, as the nationalist Chinese collected taxes, forcibly enlisted recruits and encouraged poppy cultivation in the area to finance their "secret" army. At the age of 16, Khun Sa formed his own armed band to fight the intruders. In the early 1960s, his small private army was even recognized officially as the "Loi Maw Ka Kwe Ye", a home guard unit under the Myanmar army.

"Ka Kwe Ye" (KKY), which literally means "defense" in the Myanmar language, was Yangon's idea of a local militia to fight the Kuomintang as well as local, separatist Shan rebels. The plan was to rally as many local warlords as possible, mostly non-political brigands and private army commanders, behind the Myanmar army in exchange for the right to use all government-controlled roads and towns in Shan state for opium trafficking. By trading in opium, the Myanmar government hoped that the KKY militias would be self-supporting. The warlords, who were supposed to fight the insurgents, strengthened their private armies and purchased with opium money, military equipment available on the black market in Thailand and Laos. Some of them, Khun Sa included, were soon better equipped than the Myanmar military itself.

French administration of Indochina had financed its covert operations with the drug trade, and the CIA had simply replaced the French, to finance similar operations. The French paratroopers fighting with hill tribes collected the opium and French aircraft would fly the opium down to Saigon and the Sino-Vietnamese mafia that was the instrument of French intelligence would then distribute the opium. The central bank accounts, the sharing of the profits, were all controlled by French military intelligence. CIA had taken over the French assets and was pursuing something of the same policy. The bloody Saigon Street fighting of April May 1955 marked the end of French colonial rule and the beginning of direct American intervention in Vietnam. When the First Indochina war came to an end, the French government had planned to withdraw its forces gradually over a two- or three-year period in order to protect its substantial political and economic interests in southern Vietnam.

The Vietnam War was a boon for the opium and heroin business. Americans in Southeast Asia not only provided a fairly well paid source of buyers but they also provided ways for Asian drug producers to export their products around the world. Before that time Turkey and the Middle East were the primary source of opium. As time went on demand increased and to meet demand production increased, as more drugs flooded the market more people had access to drugs. As part of their effort to combat Communism, the CIA allegedly helped expand the opium trade in Southeast Asia first in Laos, then in Burma and finally in Vietnam to help groups fighting Communism raise money and sew instability.

From 1960 to 1973, the C.I.A. allegedly trained Hmong tribesmen to fight against Communist in Laos and the Hmong in turn financed some of their efforts by selling opium. During the 40 years of the cold war, from the late 1940s to this year, the CIA pursued a policy where their mission was to stop communism and in pursuit of that mission they would ally with anyone and do anything to fight communism. During the long years of the cold war the CIA mounted major covert guerilla operations along the Soviet-Chinese border. The CIA recruited as allies people we now call drug lords for their operation against communist China in northeastern Burma in 1950, then from 1965 to 1975 [during the Vietnam war] their operation in northern Laos and throughout the decade of the 1980s, the Afghan operation against Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

Powerful, upland political figures control the societies and economies in these regions and part of that panoply of power is the opium trade. The CIA extended the mantle of their alliance to these drug lords and in every case the drug lords used it to expand a small local trade in opium into a major source of supply for the world markets and the United States. While they were allied with the United States these drug lords were absolutely immune to any kind of investigation. If you're involved in any kind of illicit commodity trade, organized crime activity like drug trafficking, there is only one requisite for success, immunity, and the CIA gave them that. The CIA set up an airline called Air America that was involved in various activities associated with the war: moving fighters, flying reconnaissance missions, dropping and picking up spies and searching for downed aircraft. The CIA's private airline, Air America, became notorious for its dope shuttle flights in and out of Southeast Asia's "Golden Triangle" opium region.

A 2013 United Nations report said that just over 9 metric tons of heroin was seized in East and Southeast Asia in 2012, compared to 6.5 metric tons in 2010, while 2.7 metric tons of opium was seized in 2012 compared to 2 metric tons in 2010. Much of the opium grown in the Golden Triangle in the 1970s, 80s and 90s was refined into a super-pure form of heroin known as China White (also known Heroin no. 4). Favored by intravenous drug users in the United States, it was stronger and cheaper than heroin from Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan that circulated during the 1960s. Golden Triangle opium was also made into Heroin No. 3 smoking heroin, favored by addicts in Southeast Asia. 

After the crackdown on opium and heroin production in Thailand in the 1980s most of production was done by opium farmers in Myanmar and heroin labs in Myanmar, Thailand and Laos. Thailand remained a key link in the smuggling. There was a steady increase of opium production in the Golden Triangle in the 1980s and 1990s. About 4,000 tons of opium was produced in the Golden Triangle in 1995, most of it from northeast Myanmar. At that time it was estimated that two tons of heroin was smuggled through Thailand. At one time about 70 percent of the heroin on the streets in the United States originated in the Golden Triangle. The region produced 3,000 tons of opium in 1996, 60 percent of the global supply.

In the late 1990s, the Golden Crescent in Pakistan, Iran and particularly Afghanistan surpassed the Golden Triangle as the world's largest opium-growing area. Myanmar produces 90 percent of the heroin and opium produced in the Golden Triangle. Laos produces some but much less than Myanmar. Thailand used to produce quite a lot but it doesn’t anymore. Many of the former opium growing areas in Thailand are now popular trekking areas.

The Golden Crescent

Over the next decade, the Golden Crescent region, encompassing the mountain valleys of Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, emerged as one of the world's two biggest sources of opium, for several years even surpassing the contiguous Golden Triangle. While some of the opium producing areas of Afghanistan were unquestionably under the control of the Red Army, the majority of poppy fields were in areas like the Helmand Valley in southern Afghanistan that were in the hands of the Mujahideen, especially the Hezb-i-Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, which also controlled a string of heroin laboratories just across the Pakistani border at Koh-i-Soltan.

By the late 1980s, it was reported that Pakistan's annual revenue from heroin sales was $8-10 billion, one-fourth of the country's Gross Domestic Product. Most of the raw opium processed into heroin at the hundreds of clandestine laboratories in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and in the area around the Khyber Pass, came from Afghanistan, which was producing over 1,000 tons per year by the midpoint of the Afghan War. One consequence of this opium boom was an epidemic increase in drug addiction among Pakistanis. Whereas in 1980, the total addict population of Pakistan was under 5,000, by 1988, the country had 1.3 million opium addicts. 

The United States' alliances with opium traffickers in Afghanistan go back to the 1980s, when the CIA waged a dirty war to undermine the Soviet occupation of the country. Though opium had been grown for centuries in Afghanistan's highlands, large-scale cultivation was introduced in Helmand by Mullah Nasim Akhund-zada, a mujahedeen commander who was receiving support from the ISI and the CIA. USAID's irrigated farmlands were perfect for cash-crop production, and as Akhundzada wrested control of territory from the Communist government, he introduced production quotas and offered cash advances to farmers who planted opium. When the Red Army completed its pullout from Afghanistan in February 1989, "opium warfare" erupted among rival Mujahideen groups. Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami attempted to take control over the opium fields in an area of the Helmand Valley controlled by Mullah Nasim Akhundzada. Hekmatyar's forces were defeated, but two years later, Nasim—by then the deputy defense minister of Afghanistan—was assassinated by his opium rival, and fighting broke out again between the Hezb-i-Islami and the Helmand Valley group, now headed byNasim's older brother Mohammed Rasul.

The Afghan narcotics economy was a carefully designed project of the CIA, supported by US foreign policy. As revealed in the Iran-Contra and Bank of Commerce and Credit International (BCCI) scandals, CIA covert operations in support of the Afghan Mujahideen had been funded through the laundering of drug money. "Dirty money" was recycled through a number of banking institutions (in the Middle East) as well as through anonymous CIA shell companies, into ”covert money," used to finance various insurgent groups during the Soviet-Afghan war, and its aftermath:

"Because the US wanted to supply the Mujahideen rebels in Afghanistan with stinger missiles and other military hardware it needed the full cooperation of Pakistan. By the mid-1980s, the CIA operation in Islamabad was one of the largest US intelligence stations in the World. `If BCCI is such an embarrassment to the US that forthright investigations are not being pursued it has a lot to do with the blind eye the US turned to the heroin trafficking in Pakistan', said a US intelligence officer. 

Across the Helmand province, hundreds of thousands of people were taking part in the largest opium harvest in Afghanistan's history. With a record 224,000 hectares under cultivation in year 2014, the country produced an estimated 6,400 tons of opium, or around 90 percent of the world's supply. The drug is entwined with the highest levels of the Afghan government and the economy in a way that makes the cocaine business in Escobar-era Colombia look like a sideshow. The share of cocaine trafficking and production in Colombia's GDP peaked at six percent in the late 1980s; in Afghanistan today, according to U.N. estimates, the opium industry accounts for 15 percent of the economy, a figure that is set to rise as the West withdraws. Even more shocking is the fact that the Afghan narcotics trade has gotten undeniably worse since the U.S.-led invasion: The country produces twice as much opium as it did in 2000. Recently evidence has emerged that NATO Troops have been protecting Opium Crops in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is landlocked, and its borders leak opium like sieves into five neighboring countries. In recent years, the northern route to Russia and Europe via Tajikistan has gained importance, but the southern route through Balochistan still accounts for the largest portion of opium that leaves the country. From there, it is smuggled into Iran, and then onward to the Balkans, the Persian Gulf and Africa. Most of it is destined for Western Europe The Balochistan border area between Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran is one of the most remote and lawless places on Earth. The ethnic Baluch and Pashtun tribes that control the area are heavily armed and have been involved in various kinds of smuggling for centuries. Some are nominally cooperative with the state, while others are engaged with a bewildering mix of insurgent groups: secular Baluch rebels who seek independence from Pakistan, Sunni anti-Iranian groups and a wide array of Islamist militants, including the Taliban. It's a natural haven for illicit activities.

Central and Latin American Drug Cartels

Drug Cartels are illegal organizations that have spread all over Latin America. These Cartels possess a network of drug traffickers with powerful links and influence. In the 1970’s the most powerful drug Cartels were located in Colombia, and the two most influential were the Cali Cartel and the Medellin Cartel. By then, the increasing demand for cocaine in the United States made both Cartels eager to take over that market. They were able to dominate the American and European market, amassing vast wealth, making at least 60 millions dollars per day. Pablo Escobar, head of the Medellin Cartel, was the perfect example. At the height of his power, Escobar‘s net worth was 30 billion dollars, and he controlled eighty percent of the global cocaine market. With such leverage, Drug Lords were able to buy a lot of political influence and connections. Pablo Escobar even murdered a presidential candidate. The AUC, ELN, FARC (Drug Cartels in Colombia) all benefit and derive some organizational proceeds from the drug trade. The FARC in some instances directly trade cocaine for weapons and funds weapon sales from cocaine proceeds.

Due to Colombian strong anti-narcotic strategies, Colombian Cartels are no longer influential. Nowadays, the most powerful Drug Cartels are located in Mexico. These Mexican Cartels import cocaine from South America and smuggle them to the US. Some of them grow marijuana and produce amphetamines to complement American’s drug demand. They also get their revenue by money laundering and extorting local businesses. The Western territory is controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel, The Jalisco New Generation, the Gulf Cartel and the Knights Templar. The Eastern territory is controlled by the ruthless Zeta and the Beltran Leyva Organization. Since former Mexican president Felipe Calderon launched a war to end Drug Cartels, this conflict has caused an approximately of 85,000 people dead since 2006. 

In 1996, the San Jose Mercury News published Dark Alliance, a series of investigative reports linking CIA missions in Nicaragua with the explosion of crack cocaine consumption in America's ghettos. In order to fund Contra rebels fighting Nicaragua's socialist government, the CIA partnered with Colombian cartels to move drugs into Los Angeles, sending profits back to Central America, the series alleged.  The whole scandal was vividly encapsulated in movie “Kill the Messenger” (2014) which showed the complicity of the CIA in Drug Trade into America to Fund its guerilla wars. The Investigative Journalist was targeted, slandered and later quietly the agency admitted to the whole operations carried out in 1980s. An investigation by El Universal has found that between 2000 and 2012, the U.S. government had an agreement with Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel that allowed the organization to smuggle billions of dollars of drugs into the U.S. in exchange for information on rival cartels. Sinaloa, led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, supplies 80% of the drugs flooding Chicago and has a presence in cities across the U.S. This was the very same El Chapo who has recently in 2015 escaped from high security prison in Mexico.  

Narco - Terrorism

Global Drug Trade has been the biggest contributor to Narco Terrorism or Funding of Terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, Taliban, ISIS, Hamas, and Hezbollah and guerilla warfare like the Nicaragua Contras in 80s.  Terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah fund their illegal activities such as the Sale of Contrabands out of Tri-Border area of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina that helps it generate significant revenue to buy arms and the funds are channeled back into Lebanon. Turkish Press has reported that Kurdish Militia group PKK produces 60 Tons of heroin per year and receives 40 million dollars for drug trafficking proceeds. Similar was the case with LTTE in Sri Lanka and Abu Sayaff Group in Philippines. Such Groups including the Rebel groups operating from Myanmar like Kachin Rebels, PLA, NSCN, and ULFA use Drug Trafficking proceeds for funding their Terror machine. 

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Marxist rebel group, was the "force behind the agreement with AQIM. FARC saw an opportunity to use the Sahel and North Africa as its new drug route. AQIM is an independent unit of al-Qaeda and does not share the monies with al-Qaeda central but is looking to pull off terror attacks on its own in Europe. Terrorists linked to al-Qaeda in North Africa have made $130m (£84m) from helping drugs gangs and kidnap ransoms since 2007, according to one report citing an investigation by the Algerian government.

Similarly through taxation of Illicit Opium Production in Afghanistan, Taliban were able to fund Extremist Groups like Al Qaeda and these very contrabands made its way to Punjab and Kashmir in India whose proceeds were utilized in unleashing terror in the Region in connivance with Pakistan’s Intelligence Agency ISI. Recently Former CIA and State Department Official stated in his Deposition before US Congress Committee; that before 2003, “India accounted for 1 in every 3 Terror Attacks that happened in the world yet we chose to remain in denial. He further stated that these attacks were carried out by Al Qaeda Groups that were trained and operating from camps in Afghanistan prior to 2001. These groups received direct funding from Pakistan’s ISI. He further stated that more people died in Terror Attacks in India than Israel and he mentions that it not a co-incidence that India is in neighbourhood of 2 of the most Cocaine producing countries in the world i.e. Afghanistan and Burma. The fact that you have the drug trafficking activities both from production and distribution in the same areas of the world where these groups that are either Marxist–Leninist or Islamic is no coincidence.

The Underworld of Drug Syndicates, Terrorist Organisations and  Arms Dealers make up a deadly cocktail which is often exploited by Intelligence Agencies across the world that use these illegal trades to fund their covert operations in various target states. This Deadly Cocktail has for centuries unleashed Narco Terrorism on large swathes of populace across the world; sometimes in the world’s poorest nations. As they say everything is not Black and White, there are shades of grey and it is in this grey area that the underworld functions carrying out most of its illegal trades from Drug Peddling to Illegal Arms Trade with impunity. 

The Global Reign of Terror

Since 9/11 the World has been constantly at war with Terror, something which has manifested in vast human suffering as collateral damage. First the war in Afghanistan, later Iraq then Libya and now Syria; has created a Reign of Terror that has spread across continents from Middle East to North Africa to Europe to Asia. But the reign of terror that has been unleashed on the world in the form of state actors or non-state actors- is it just a co-incidence or a carefully calibrated strategy? To understand the backdrop of War on Terror, that has been launched post 9/11 one needs to go back a year and understand some missing links in the whole jigsaw puzzle.

America’s Global Dominance in 21st Century

One needs to refer to a Strategic document that was prepared and released in September 2000, which outlined America’s Military Role in the 21st Century on maintaining its Global Hegemony. The project outlines how America ought to use its Military Industrial Complex to extend its Global Hegemony in the 21st Century post the collapse of Soviet Union and the likely rise of China in Asia-Pacific. The Strategic Documents details in depth about the need for American forces to be among the most ready to be deployed anywhere in the world, with finely honed war fighting skills and the only forces configured for combat- highly versatile and mobile with a broad range of capabilities; indicating the true American commitment to its allies and their security interests. The Document also says that allies like the United Kingdom are “the most effective and efficient means of exercising American Global Leadership. The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.

The Document calls for a blueprint for maintaining global US Pre-eminence and shaping the “International Security Order” in line with “America’s principles and interests”. This “American Grand Strategy” must be advanced ‘as far into future as possible’ and the US must Fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theatre wars’ as a Core Mission. The Documents highlights North Korea, Syria, Iran and Libya as “dangerous regimes” and says their existence justifies the creation of a worldwide command and control system. The strategic document further highlights the prospect of ‘Regime Change’ in China by stating that it is time for the presence of American Forces in South East Asia. This could lead to ‘America and Allied Power providing the spur to the process of democratization of China’. 

The Document calls for creation of “US Space Forces” to dominate the space and total control of cyber space to prevent their enemies from using the Internet. There is also a subtle hint of developing biological weapons that can target genotypes as this may transform biological warfare from realm of terror to a politically useful tool. The Documents further goes on to say that this ‘process of transformation is likely to be long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event like a New Pearl Harbor’. It is rather intriguing that this strategic document mapping US’s future strategies in the decades ahead was released in September 2000 almost an year to 9/11; the America’s ‘New Pearl Harbor’ subsequent to which the War on Terror was Launched.

It is also rather queer that Neo-Cons who were part of this Strategic document released in September 2000 were also part of Bush Administration, months down the lane when 9/11 happened. Many of the top US Security Establishment members were part of this strategic vision document. The Catastrophic Events of 9/11 changed the way the world knew terror and thus in the name of that terror came a new wave of Taking down Regimes and propping up Brutal Dictators, clandestine help to Ultra Jihadists and dispatching the allied forces in the name of ‘War On Terror’.

Since September 11, 2001, US Special Operations forces have grown in every conceivable way, including their numbers, their budget, their clout in Washington and their place in the country’s popular imagination. The command has, for example, more than doubled its personnel from about 33,000 in 2001 to nearly 70,000 today, including a jump of roughly 8,000 during the three-year tenure of recently retired SOCOM chief Admiral William McRaven. During the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2014, US Special Operations forces (SOF) were deployed to 133 countries roughly 70 percent of the nations on the planet according to Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bockholt, a public affairs officer with US Special Operations Command (SOCOM). This capped a three-year span in which the country’s most elite forces were active in more than 150 different countries around the world, conducting missions ranging from kill/capture night raids to training exercises. They carried out shadowy missions over much of the planet: sometimes covert raids, more often hush-hush training exercises from Chad to Uganda, Bahrain to Saudi Arabia, Albania to Romania, Bangladesh to Sri Lanka, and Belize to Uruguay and consisted of the Special Operations forces (SOF), America’s most elite troops - Army Green Berets and Navy SEALs, among others and odds are, if you throw a dart at a world map or stop a spinning globe with your index finger and don’t hit water, they’ve been there sometime in 2015.

The elite of the elite in the special ops community, Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) take on covert, clandestine, and low-visibility operations in the hottest of hot spots.  Some covert ops that have come to light in recent years include a host of Delta Force missions: among them, an operation in May in which members of the elite force killed an Islamic State commander known as Abu Sayyaf during a night raid in Syria; the 2014 release of long-time Taliban prisoner Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl; the capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala, a suspect in 2012 terror attacks in Benghazi, Libya; and the 2013 abduction of Anas Al-Libi, an al-Qaeda militant, off a street in that same country.  Similarly, Navy SEALs have, among other operations, carried out successful hostage rescue missions in Afghanistan and Somalia in 2012; a disastrous one in Yemen in 2014; a 2013 kidnap raid in Somalia that went awry; and that same year a failed evacuation mission in South Sudan in which three SEALs were wounded when their aircraft was hit by small arms fire. 

The Global Reign of Terror

In the name of War on Terror post 9/11, US has not only increased its global military footprint  operating Drones from Africa to Middle East to Afghanistan, to having Military bases across the globe with special forces but also private mercenaries carrying out raids, bombing and drone strikes which have evoked sharp criticism about human rights violations. The latest strike on a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan is just one more such incidence where indiscretion in the name of war on terror has surpassed all humanistic boundaries. The Kunduz Hospital Strike by USAF that hit Doctors, Medical Staff and Patients evoked sharp criticism that are holding united states liable for War Crimes. President Obama has apparently apologized to Medical Organizations working there saying that the strike was based on Faulty Intelligence of a Taliban Operative being present in the hospital aided by Pakistan’s ISI. But this is one of few incidents which have caught the attention of the world yet there are so many unaccounted horrific massacres owing to indiscriminate strikes and special operations by Coalition Forces across regions from Afghanistan to Yemen to Somalia and Syria/Iraq. 

On 11th March 2012, Massacre of 17 Afghan Civilians including 9 children and 4 women raised the fundamental question about the nature of Colonial Nature of War on Terror that mirrored practices of a colonial army engaged in prolonged occupation and the character of an Imperial state that gets away despite committing war crimes in a most inhuman manner.  As per US Administration at 3 am on March 11, 2012 a deranged soldier walked off a Special Forces Base in rural Kandahar Province and without command authority entered two villages (two miles apart), shot and killed 17 unarmed civilians, mostly women and children and wounded an unspecified number of villagers; then he doused their bodies with gasoline, set them on fire and hiked back to base to surrender himself to his commanders. This ‘surrender’, the Pentagon claims, was recorded on video and no less than the President of the United States, Barack Obama, vouched for its authenticity. 

Eyewitnesses have testified that up to 20 soldiers were involved, aided by a helicopter in what they described was typical of a US Special Forces’ night time raid, which involved the systematic breaking down of doors, rousing the sleeping families and shooting Afghan victims. What was supposed to have been a typical midnight assault on a “pacified” village in search of Taliban supporters, turned into the mass murder of children and their mothers in bed with virtually no adult males (husbands, fathers, uncles or brothers) present to protect them.  In the days after news of the massacre leaked out, a furious Afghan President Karzai claimed that “hundreds” of similar massacres had been perpetrated by US and NATO forces and had gone unreported in the Western media and unpunished. Karzai has repeatedly called for an end to US Special Forces’ night raids on sleeping villages.

MarSOC was created three years ago on the express orders of Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary at the time, despite opposition from within the Marine Corps and the wider Special Forces community. Troops from the US Marines Corps' Special Operations Command, or MarSOC, were responsible for calling in air strikes in Bala Boluk, in Farah, in May 2009 believed to have killed more than 140 men, women and children – as well as two other incidents in 2007 and 2008. The first controversial incident involving the unit happened just three weeks into its first deployment to Afghanistan on 4 March 2007. Speeding away from a suicide bomb attack close to the Pakistan border, around 120 men from Fox Company opened fire on civilians near Jalalabad, in Nangahar province. The Marines said they were shot at after the explosion; eyewitnesses said the Americans fired indiscriminately at pedestrians and civilian cars, killing at least 19 people. In August 2008, a 20-man MarSOC unit, fighting alongside Afghan commandos, directed fire from unmanned drones, attack helicopters and a cannon-armed Spectre gunship into compounds in Azizabad, in Herat province, leaving more than 90 people dead - many of them children.  

On the evening of February 12, some 25 friends and relatives gathered at the home of Hajji Sharaf Udin in the village of Khataba, a few miles outside Gardez, the capital of Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan. They were there to celebrate the naming of Udin's new-born grandson. "Sitting together along the walls of a guest room, the men had taken turns dancing while musicians played," The Times (UK) later reported. Before sunrise five innocent Afghan civilians, all relatives would be murdered. Around 3:00 am, one of the musicians went outside the compound to use the toilet. Someone shined a light in his eyes. He ran inside and yelled that the Taliban were outside. While most of the guests slept, Udin's son, Mohammed Dawood, a police commander, went out to investigate with his 15-year-old son Sediqullah. Perhaps under fire, no doubt in terror, father and son ran back across the courtyard. Both were shot by a gunman on the roof. Dawood was killed instantly. His son was hit twice but lived. Three women were crouching behind Zahir in the doorway- Bibi Shirin, 22, the mother of four children under five; Bibi Saleha, 37, the mother of 11 children; and Gulalai, 18. Both mothers were pregnant. All three were gunned down by the volley that killed Zahir. 

Despite harsh criticism US and NATO Refused to accept responsibility and rather put out a lame story of a fire fight and a threat intent. The Gardez massacre is also a brutal illustration of the reactionary character of the U.S. occupation.  The U.S. has offered $2,000 "compensation" to the family for each victim. Not only Special Operations but US Coalition Troops have been accused of War Crimes, Violation of Geneva Convention in case of missing reports of scores of Afghan civilians a prime e.g. of which was one Qandi, who worked as a cashier at the Wardak office of the Ministry of Information and Culture, who was arrested at his house in early November 2012 by US soldiers and their Afghan interpreters. He said was taken to the Special Forces base in Nerkh and held there for 45 days, where he was accused of working with the insurgents. He claimed he was tortured into making false confessions by American soldiers and their Afghan interpreters, including Zikria, and that they subjected him to beatings, shocks with a Taser, mock drownings, as well as sexual abuse.

Special Operations troops struck a seemingly endless succession of targets. No figures are publicly available that break out the number of raids that Team 6 carried out in Afghanistan or their toll. Military officials say that no shots were fired on most raids. But between 2006 and 2008, Team 6 operators said, there were intense periods in which for weeks at a time their unit logged 10 to 15 kills on many nights, and sometimes up to 25. Team 6 and its Army counterpart, Delta Force, have delivered intrepid performances that have drawn the nation’s two most recent presidents to deploy them to an expanding list of far-off trouble spots. They include Syria and Iraq, now under threat from the Islamic State, and Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen, mired in continuing chaos.

Not only in Afghanistan but such operations have been carried through Drone Strikes in Afghanistan-Pakistan border or in Yemen where scores of civilians have been killed in the name of War on Terror. At 6 am on December 17, 2009 a US Navy vessel stationed in the Gulf launched at least one cruise missile towards Al-Majala. The US target that day was Saleh Mohammed al-Anbouri, also known as Al-Kazemi. The man was a known militant, who had allegedly been ‘bringing nationals from different countries to train them to become Al Qaeda members’, as stated in a later inquiry. He was linked to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a franchise of the global terrorist organization, which had launched multiple attacks against US, interests in Yemen. Al Anbouri had brought his wife and four young sons to live with his tribe in Al-Majala. Also living in the hamlet was the extended Al Haydara family, mostly women and children.  They had no known links to AQAP. Al Anbouri told locals that after recently being released from prison, he wanted to ‘start a new life.’ On the morning of December 17, he and a group of other men were digging a well. 

Forty-one civilians died in the US attack. Fourteen members of the extended Al Haydara clan were killed, along with 27 members of the Al Anbouri clan. Three more people later died when they stepped on left-over cluster munitions. Among those killed that day were 22 children. The youngest, Khadje Ali Mokbel Louqye, was just one year old. A dozen women also died, five of them reportedly pregnant. For the Pentagon’s elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) – the group that captured Saddam Hussein and would later kill Osama bin Laden – the first US attack in Yemen in seven years seemed a success. A wanted terrorist and his alleged associates were dead.

Approximately 4,500 people have been killed in Yemen since the Saudis lead coalition began bombing 150 days ago, according to UN. 23,000 more have been wounded. UNICEF estimates nearly 400 children have been killed and over 600 injured and in past 4 months in the poorest country of the Middle East. Not only US Special Forces but even allies like Saudi Arabia have caused vast human tragedies raging across continents all in the name of war on terror. Adding to the misery are also the Conflicts raging in Eastern Ukraine where Russian Backed rebels massacred hundreds of Ukrainian Soldiers. Soldiers from a Ukraine volunteer battalion say they were gunned down after pro-Russians Rebels went back on a deal to allow them safe passage out of the besieged town of Ilovaisk. Similarly Assad Regime in Syria has been said to have committed war crimes by indiscriminate barrel bombing of Cities which has nearly killed 1, 70,000+ Civilians in Regime Offensives and bombings. 

War on Terror: An Endless War

In may 2013 a Senate Armed Services committee member asked a senior Pentagon official, Assistant Secretary Michael Sheehan, how long the war on terror would last; his reply: “At least 10 to 20 years.” At least. A Pentagon spokesperson confirmed afterward “that Sheehan meant the conflict is likely to last 10 to 20 more years from today - atop the 12 years that the conflict has already lasted.” Leon Panetta, who served as Obama’s Defense Secretary and CIA Director, said of Obama’s new bombing campaign: “I think we’re looking at kind of a 30-year war”. He added that the war “will have to extend beyond Islamic State to include emerging threats in Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere”. Former US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel in Oct 2014 said ‘get used to Endless war’. 

Bloomberg reported in September 2014-Led by Lockheed Martin Corp., the biggest U.S. defense companies are trading at record prices as shareholders reap rewards from escalating military conflicts around the world. Lockheed, the world’s biggest defense company, reached an all-time high of $180.74 on Sept. 19, when Northrop, Raytheon Co. and General Dynamics Corp. also set records. That quartet and Chicago-based Boeing accounted for about $105 billion in federal contract orders last year. For defense companies, the offensive against Islamic State and al-Qaeda extremists is more than a showcase for big-ticket weapons such as Lockheed’s F-22 Raptor fighter, the stealth jet that debuted in combat last year. Not only US but Russia has also joined the race to showcase its weapons in War Zones like Syria where it fired latest Long Range Cruise Missile SS-N-30 from Caspian Sea into Syria or deploying its Flanker Jets (Sukhois). 

These very nations’ imperialistic military campaigns and excesses in garb of same has fuelled more extremism and grotesque jihadist groups like ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Shabab, AQAP who are committing mass executions, beheading leading to a larger human travesty out of this war on terror by prompting more military campaigns - an endless self-sustaining vicious cycle. These night raids, special operations, covert assassinations, extrajudicial killings, drone strikes, the use of military contractors, massive detentions and torture, and all-around terror are embedded in the nature of this imperialist occupation. This has been vividly captured in a Documentary Film ‘Dirty Wars’ (2013) where an investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill traces the rise of the Joint Special Operations Command. He exposes covert operations to capture and kill people (Kill Lists), but those agents do not exist on paper.

It’s a sad reflection that leading nations across the world guided by their military industrial complex, ringing in big bucks seem to have become deaf and mute spectators to human tragedy that is unfolding every day in this never ending sordid saga of War on Terror. It would be correct to say that War on Terror is actually Global Reign of Terror where enemies (terror threats) will be first created like Al Qaeda in Afghan Jihad and then the very same organizations will be used to justify imperial military campaigns. It is said that in this world both Good and Evil Exists and till the time evil exists the unfortunate truth is that this war on terror will continue. 

India’s Dilemma - Free Trade or Fair Trade Agreements?

We have already discussed in India & the Trade Treaties as to how India is facing pressure from various quarters like US over BIT and with EU over its FDA. The Core of the dispute, which has stalled the negotiations in both, is IPR and the ISDS issue just like in TPP or TTIP. In addition India has completed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with Japan in 2011, and is in the process of negotiating Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements with Australia and with Canada.

Intellectual Property Regime - India’s FTAs and BITs

On December 12 2014, the US Trade Representative (USTR) issued a statement on a review of India's intellectual property rights (IPR) system. The review's unstated objective was to put pressure on India to modify its IPR laws to address the concerns of US companies. An unfavourable report from America’s chief trade negotiator would have meant Indian companies losing some trade benefits in the US. The joint statement between India and US in Jan 2015, however, gave India some breathing space. The USTR keeps India on a list of countries it says present the "most significant concerns" regarding weak IPR laws.

The US raised concerns around counterfeiting, piracy and Pharma. India has taken some major steps on the IPR front. The Prime Minister has constituted an IPR think tank under the auspices of DIPP (Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion) with a mandate to formulate a National IPR Policy through stakeholder consultation. A joint committee has also been set up between the two countries to discuss and resolve key IPR issues. The perception and reality are very different. India is highly TRIPS-compliant and the one compulsory licence that has been granted has followed the provisions of TRIPS in doing so. 

India’s IPR regime and specifically Patent laws have been a sticking point in Bi-Later negotiations on BIT with US as well FTA with EU. In March 2012, Indian Patent office granted permission to Hyderabad based NATCO Pharma to make a generic version of German’s Pharmaceutical companies’ cancer drug Nexavar. Bayer lost in appeal in Supreme Court while in December 2014. While in April 2013, the Supreme Court of India rejected Novartis’s Patent over its Cancer Drug Glivec while rejecting the concept of Ever-greening of Patents where minor modifications to Medicinal formula could qualify to be registered as new patents. Under Section 3(d), of the Indian Patents Act, new forms of existing medicines can't be patented unless they improve therapeutic efficacy. It was under this provision that India rejected a patent for Glivec. Novartis holds a patent for the drug in many countries including the US. Pfizer, another US drug giant, is also involved in patent-related disputes in India.

Another Bone of Contention is Section 84 which allows issuing a compulsory licence to meet the reasonable requirements of the public at a reasonably affordable price. A compulsory license can also be granted under Section 92 of the Act in case of a national emergency. Natco Pharma got a compulsory licence, the first ever in India, for generic Nexavar under Section 84. Multinational drug makers say the Section 84 narrows the criteria for patentability and undermines incentives for innovation. India argues Section 84 aims to ensure that a larger section of its 1.2 billion populations gets affordable health care, a view that has found support from the WHO. According to an April 2013 article in US medical journal Blood, the price of branded Glivec was $92,000 per patient per year in the US. In India, the drug was being sold for around Rs 14 lakh per patient a year. In comparison, Natco Pharma sold the generic Veenat at Rs 1.2 lakh per patient a year. After the Drug Price Control Order 2013, they are both under price control and sell for around Rs 1 lakh per patient a year.

The flashpoint has clearly been pharmaceuticals and it's the drug makers and their lobby group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) which have made some of the strongest representations to the US government against India's IPR regime. The industry body claims that India's IPR laws do not comply with the World Trade Organization's agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). A section of US drug makers have intensified the pressure on the US government to make India change its patent law. Global drug makers have another worry - the likely contagion effects of India's stand on IPR. For instance, Section 22 of the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines is similar to Section 3(d) of the Indian Patents Act. The lobby group PhRMA has admitted as much. In a submission to the USITC, the group said some of its members were experiencing "the effects of India's anti-innovation policies in other countries where similar policies have been instituted".

Similarly India and the 27-nation European Union have been negotiating the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) since mid-2007 but differences between the two sides on several issues have led to the delay in concluding the talks. Intellectual property rights have been one of the sticking points. The broad objective of the free trade agreement is to reduce tariffs on goods and liberalize services and investment provisions. The EU is India’s largest trading partner accounting for approximately € 86 billion in trade in goods and services in 2010. Bilateral trade in goods alone rose by 20% between 2010 and 2011. The main concern is that India is being asked to come around to an IPR regime that goes beyond what is mandated in the 1994 World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). 

Article 22 (3) of the proposed FTA is extremely far-reaching -that provides that in certain cases of infringements, the defendant’s property may be seized and his bank accounts frozen. Similarly there are several provisions that now provide for intermediary liability, which was absent in TRIPS. Article 20 states that courts should have the power to grant ex parte orders to collect allegedly infringing evidence, but does not provide for any protection for a bona fide defendant whose premises are wrongly raided. These provisions go beyond TRIPS and Indian Government has been steadfast that it won’t commit any thing in excess of internationally agreed norms under TRIPS. 

ISDS – Bone of Contention in India’s FTA’s and BITs 

Just like TPP, TTIP the western powers like US have been pressing  India to agree to an ISDS Model where the Corporations can sue the States for Loss of Profits caused by any act, rules and regulations even if framed in public interest. Though India post May 2014 has been steadfastly opposing this model and has rather suggested different model of BITs laying down Rules for Arbitration in case of dispute and recourse to domestic forums in the host state before invoking the ISDS Clause. After the 2G Spectrum Verdict by Supreme Court in 2012, Norway's Telenor, Russia's Sistema, Dubai headquartered Etisalat and Bahrain's Batelco threatened to sue India under Bi-Lateral protection agreement taking recourse in International Arbitration. In 2002, Australia's White Industries had sued the Indian government for violation of the bilateral investment treaty between the two countries following its dispute with Coal India and got an award against India. India already has such bilateral investment promotion and protection agreements with about 72 countries while another 10 such agreements are awaiting approvals.

The US model BIT [bilateral investment treaty] of 2012 is very clear to the extent that it contains provisions regarding investor-state arbitration. This allows private actors to challenge India’s IPR measures. So even if BITs do not go beyond the common minimum standards of the TRIPS agreement, the very fact that intellectual property is treated as an investment and by binding such BITs to TRIPS standards, can itself lead to a host of legal challenges. Primarily, even while member states of the World Trade Organization may not be interested in bringing disputes against other member states, BITs can be used to bring disputes in investor-state arbitration. 

India’s consistent stand of giving primacy to Public Interest like affordable medical care, generics over Corporate Monopolies in Patents and not letting its Sovereignty be diluted by allowing Corporations to sue it at Extra Judicial tribunals have drawn ire from various quarters. Hectic negotiations have been going and pressure tactics have been adopted on India like the banning of 700 Indian Drugs by EU that lead to FTA Talks being stalled and USFDA’s consistent harassment of Indian Drug makers on various pretexts like Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd, Sun Pharma and Wockhardt Ltd for non-compliance with quality standards in the local manufacturing units. Indian drug markers are one of the biggest Generic Drug Manufacturers in the world with exports to 200 countries and accounting for 40% of U.S. generic drug imports. India’s drug industry is touted to touch $48 billion by 2018 owing to Generic Drug and expiry of patents of several high-value drugs such as Pfizer Inc.’s cardiac drug Lipitor, Roche’s Boniva, and GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s Combivir. 

There are indications that the Indian government is changing its stand and taking a favourable view to the US-demand for data exclusivity and patent linkage. What is most troubling is that this move would only benefit foreign MNCs, leaving Indian generics in the lurch and risking the health of millions of patients in the bargain. The Draft IPR Policy suggestion on utility models has raised a few eyebrows. "India has a large number of inventions that may not satisfy the criteria of patentability but are novel, utilitarian and inventive in their own spheres. Such petty patents or 'utility models' is a form of IP which has been successfully applied in many countries but is not available in India”. This could have serious repercussions by creating monopolies that hamper development. However the Final IPR Policy is still to roll out as vested interests and lobbies watch as to how much India is willing to concede before they think of investing in India.

Indian drug makers aren't happy with the government's talks with the US on the IPR regime. While India has been negotiating IPR as part of trade agreements with other countries and blocs such as the European Union, direct technical-level discussions centered on the IPR policy are being held only with the US. However it is unlikely that the Government will change substantive laws but wherever there is administrative discretion without proper guidance in the law/rules, there are surely changes that are bound to happen, to find a middle ground which at best can be called policy maneuvering. How far will India concede to US and EU demands remains to be seen? Hence what the world and India need is not Free Trade Agreements but Fair Trade Agreements where everyone is treated in a just and fair manner.  

India and the Geo Politics of Trade Treaties:

The Time is not far away when India will have to make a choice to either be a part of China’s Sphere of Influence which looks improbable given India’s long standing border dispute with China or aim to Sync its Act East Policy with US’s Asia Pacific pivot. With TPP head start, the Asia Pacific theatre is shaping up as is India’s, which is eyeing American Technology for its Air Craft carriers, defence partnerships, economics and trade; will have to make a choice. President Obama’s visit to New Delhi in January 2015 and Prime Minister Modi’s visit to US is noteworthy where both countries have stressed on Freedom of Navigation of Seas, Expanding Defence partnership under DTTI as well hosting Regular Strategic and Economic Dialogue. 

India's exploration of APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) membership that PM Modi has advocated for with US is currently an informal precursor to TPP membership that can unlock India's potential as a global manufacturing hub and deepen its ties with the global economy. Former Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, wrote in The Wall Street Journal in July that "APEC membership would help prepare India to participate in the emerging mega-regional trade arrangements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) that will define the future of global trade," 

Various Mechanisms have been set up by India on discussing BIT’s with United States and IPR Regime but what needs to be seen is how much India is willing to relent or adjust to a middle ground formula on the contentious issues for the mutually beneficial relationships to take off. While courting United States and its Allies in Asia Pacific may be strategically viable for India, yet it must make sure that it doesn’t lose its strategic autonomy over its Military and Economic affairs. Time will be the Judge whether India relents to International Pressure just like it did on the Climate Change Deal or remains firm on its National Interest.