Smuggling shows Iran still thirsty
Cross-border trade defies alcohol ban
Jan. 10, 2004, 12:49AM
By JIM KRANE
SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq --
Just east of here, where the Zagros mountains mark the border with Iran, a single product dominates the Iraqi exports hauled across the frontier by pack mule and tractor-trailer: liquor.
Iraq's booming liquor trade with Iran is a consequence of the divergence between the two countries' laws. Alcohol is banned inside the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is perfectly legal in secular Iraq, even if most Iraqis avoid it for religious reasons.
Not only is liquor legal here, it is untaxed and cheap. Stores sell liter bottles of Johnny Walker Red Label for just $10. In Iran, the same bottle commands at least five times the price.
"A tractor-trailer load of Jack Daniels is worth a few million dollars on the other side," said Staff Sgt. David Spence-Sales, 34, of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division. "It's illegal to bring alcohol into Iran but it's not illegal to ship it out of Iraq."
The penalty for sale or consumption of alcohol in Iran is a fine or flogging, or both.
Iranian citizens who are Armenian Christians are legally allowed to make their own wine for church services.
Despite being outlawed, foreign alcoholic beverages, from well-known U.S. labels to harsher contraband from nearby parts of the former Soviet Union, have been found in Iran since the 1979 revolution. The arbitrage keeps afloat a plethora of liquor stores in Sulaimaniyah, a center of trade with Iran.
Spence-Sales, whose surveillance unit has trained some Iraqi border police, says Iraqi customs officers simply wave the trucks through the main border post, despite knowing the trucks ferry prohibited goods.
A few of the 100 to 200 trucks that cross daily into Iran at Penjwin carry liquor, said Sgt. Louis Gitlin, a member of the same Army unit. Across the border, truckers pay bribes to see the loads through Iranian customs.
"They'll pick a small border site and pay the Iranians $20, and they'll leave it open all day," said Spence-Sales. "It's big money over there."
Spence-Sales said he had no moral qualms allowing Iranians access to banned liquor. "They call us infidels for our loose moral standards," he said. "But they live just like everyone else. You have to balance the rhetoric with what really happens." http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/business/2346600
Is it not an irony that the word alcohol has its roots in Arabic? http://www.loqmantranslations.com/ArabicFacts/Words_Trivia/Trivia_A.html
alcohol originally, was a powder, not a liquid. The word comes from Arabic al-kuhul, litterally 'the kohl' - that is, powdered antimony used as a cosmetic for darkening the eyelids. This was borrowed into English via French or medieval Latin, and retained this 'powder meaning' for some centuries. But a change was rapidly taking place: from specifically 'antimony', alcohol came to mean any substance obtained by sublimation, and hence 'quintessence'. 'Alcohol of wine' was thus the 'quintessence of wine', produced by distillation or rectification, and by the middle of the 18th century alcohol was being used on its own for the intoxicating ingredient in strong liquor.