In Iraq, poppies are blooming

Rice farmers in the south of Iraq have shifted to growing opium, a British journalist says.

Published May 25, 2007 4:31PM (EDT)

Via Iraqslogger, news from Patrick Cockburn in Britain's Independent that in the wake of the U.S. invasion, opium poppies have returned to the south of Iraq.

Cockburn reports that Iraq has long been a thoroughfare for the transport of opium from Afghanistan -- where production also increased after the U.S. invasion of that country -- but now rice farmers along the Euphrates River, near the city of Diwaniya, have begun growing the opium poppy instead.

"The shift to opium cultivation is still in its early stages but there is little the Iraqi government can do about it because rival Shia militias and their surrogates in the security forces control Diwaniya and its neighborhood," Cockburn reports. "There have been bloody clashes between militiamen, police, Iraqi army and U.S. forces in the city over the past two months."

Cockburn concedes that he has not visited the area, saying it is too dangerous for journalists, but says his information has been confirmed by two students living in the area, as well as by a source who's familiar with the Iraqi drug trade.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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