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Yemen Hashish Pipeline Thrives Amid War

Photo Courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Despite Saudi Arabia’s penchant for beheading hashish smugglers, the stuff just keeps coming in—especially from its southern neighbor Yemen. In fact, it appears that the Yemen hash trade is as strong as ever, even as the country remains embroiled in civil war.

The latest big haul of hash coming into Saudi Arabia from Yemen was reported in early September. That month, a Border Guard naval patrol seized 258 kilograms of hash at Jeddah, the country’s principal Red Sea port.

In what is now a familiar story, a vessel with three Yemeni nationals on board was also seized in the maritime operation. The flow of hashish entering from Saudi Arabia’s war-torn southern neighbor has been increasing as the conflict in Yemen has escalated. Hash from Yemen typically enters the country either by coming up the Red Sea coast or over the rugged land border of harsh desert and mountains that separates the two countries.

Last month, the Gulf Cooperation Council announced a major operation undertaken jointly by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman to shut down a ring that was smuggling hashish into the Gulf States from Yemen.

UAE authorities report that the amount of illegal drugs seized in the Emirates has almost tripled this year. A report in UAE newspaper The National quoted a police commander saying the increase is “likely due to political turmoil and security challenges in the region that create loopholes in which criminals can flourish.”

But it isn’t just that the war in Yemen is creating a lax security atmosphere. There is undoubtedly a hashish-for-guns pipeline, with Sunni factions using smuggling proceeds to buy weapons from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, and Shi’ite factions doing the same to buy weapons from Iran.

You can bet that, in the predictable irony, both sides in Yemen’s bitter Sunni-Shi’ite divide—equally intolerant of hashish-smokers and khat-chewers, and equally eager to behead them or stone them to death—are turning to the dope trade to fund their arsenals.

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