Monday, April 27, 2009

Washington-Tehran: "Counternarcotics Cooperation?"

WINEP, here

"... The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) should be allowed to establish direct communication and cooperation with its Iranian law enforcement counterparts. Iranian officials have sought this kind of arrangement in the past, and some senior U.S. State Department leaders have even lobbied for it; however, previous administrations have prohibited the DEA from moving forward.

This year the DEA is cohosting -- with its Mexican counterparts -- its twenty-seventh annual International Drug Enforcement Conference (IDEC) in Cancun, Mexico. The IDEC has grown from a five-country, Western-hemisphere-centric endeavor, to a global effort involving approximately one hundred nations. Ninety-one countries participated in the 2008 event in Istanbul, Turkey. The IDEC venue could provide an ideal opportunity to open relations between the DEA and Iranian law enforcement, as well as other law enforcement agencies from around the globe, ultimately paving the way for a new era of cooperation between the United States and Iran.

After initial exchanges, the next step is to share intelligence and evidence, ideally though the establishment of a DEA office in Tehran. The DEA has the largest U.S. law enforcement presence abroad (eighty-six offices in sixty-seven countries), made possible only by the acceptance of DEA agents as federal narcotics officers, not spies. Gaining that acceptance in Iran will be a great challenge, and it certainly would not happen overnight. But it is important to set long-term goals. Although no foreign government has succeeded in working with Iran in this manner -- and the recent conviction of a foreign journalist as a spy is alarming -- the DEA has been extraordinarily effective in sharing related leads and sensitive drug intelligence with their counterparts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries throughout the region and the world.

Policing is a science, and complex counternarcotics policing is even more challenging. Senior politicians from both countries becoming involved in police business could be disastrous. Since the problem will be compounded by the role of the IRGC, a reflexively anti-American force, the challenge will be to find a way for cooperation among senior law enforcement leaders, working at a "cop-to-cop" level..."

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