Disguising themselves as Shiite Pilgrims, traffickers have turned Iraq into a major processing and transshipment point for illegal drugs.

According to the International Narcotics Control Board based in Vienna, Iraq is becoming a major drug processing and production point. This is a major slap in the face for the United States, which has made a priority of fighting global drug trafficking.

Now that it is so actively engaged in the fight against terror, will the United States neglect another world plague, the traffic in drugs? The answer to this is yes, the International Narcotics Control Board reveals in its report.

According to this independent organization based in Vienna and attached to the United Nations, Iraq is on its way to becoming a key transit point for drug traffickers shipping their cargo from Afghanistan and to Europe and Asia, a new report says.

This information first emanated from the Jordanian authorities, which recorded a significant increase in drug trafficking and the number of drug seizures at the Iraqi border. Last April, three million pills of Captagone, a type of amphetamine, were intercepted trying to cross the border into Jordanian territory.

In addition to Captagone, the seizure of "significant quantities" of cannabis resin [hashish] and acetic anhydride, a chemical used to clandestinely manufacture heroin, would tend to prove that Iraq is becoming an important drug trafficking center as well, and cases of drug-addiction are on the rise.

Drugs containing internationally controlled substances, such as Diazepam, a very powerful anxiolytic [anti-anxiety], are readily available in the streets of Baghdad, where hospitals record a return to higher levels of drug-addiction.

The traffickers exploit the presence of so many Shiites pilgrims, who dare to venture into Iraqi territory to visit Kerbala and Nadjaf, the two holiest cities in their religion. This is an ideal cover for dealers, including a good number that could be somewhat easily stopped by the Iraqi authorities.

On the Iraqi side, the INCD said it has received, "exemplary cooperation" from Baghdad, which regularly files management reports with Vienna. Confronted with a guerrilla movement running amok and specifically targeting the police force, Baghdad suffers from great disorganization in its fight against crime.

There are some striking parallels between Iraq and Afghanistan. In both countries, political chaos and the criminalization of society, bringing on misery and insecurity, which has led to a resumption of drug trafficking and the resurgence of local markets.

"It is a scenario similar in all postconflict situations, says Hamid Ghodse, president of the INCD. The weakening of their security structures make these countries very permeable and appealing for the logistics and transit needs of drug traffickers."

The Iraqi Government, in spite of these handicaps, has adopted a national drug control program. Unfortunately, the move is grossly insufficient to deal with the present crisis, and the program should be greatly expanded.