Syrian Turmoil Furthers Regional Illicit Trade and Arms Trafficking

Posted: 10th January 2013

Illegal trade has taken hold on the fringes of war torn Syria and the Kurdish region that links Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran. Hezbollah’s missiles designed by Iran and Russia are being routed through Syria. About 40 percent of cigarettes sold at Iran’s markets are being imported into the country illegally. Smaller arms are being smuggled into Jordan. The results affect company revenues in the region and security of forces or employees deployed in those areas.

We have a webcast on this subject in the works, and this post serves as a sandbox for useful open source intelligence monitoring scenarios in the region. We’re particularly focusing on events in the borderlands of Iraq, Iran, Syria as well as major security organizations in Iraqi Kurdistan: Peshmerga and Asayish.

It’s not an overwhelming volume of information, but we can see:

  • Refugees at the Turkish-run Kilis camp, housing more than 13,000 Syrians on the Turkey-Syria border, will be able to vote on January 17 for leaders of different sections of the camp and for an 18-member administrative council.
  • Patriot defense missile batteries will be operational near the Syrian border by the end of January.
  • Israel plans to build fence along Syrian border as defense against suspected militants.

In addition to looking for discussion about the border areas of each country and seeing what potentially disruptive events are upcoming, we expect monitoring of recent activity in key border towns and known smuggling routes will be valuable. Below you’ll find events during the last seven days in select smuggling towns identified by research from Jellyfish Intel:

Highlights called out on the map as of the date of this post’s publication:

  • Floods have swept into Sinjar town in Nineveh province.
  • On January 9, a small group of women met with the Ministry of the Interior in Erbil/Hawler to discuss a perceived lack of follow up by police regarding their activism cases.
  • Officials of two ports of Bandar Abbas in Iran and Barcelona in Spain discussed ways to expand cooperation.

There are probably other points of interest along the borderlands that are interesting for tracking. If you know of any, drop us a message in the comments and we’ll add them to the monitoring scope. Lastly, it’s worth keeping an eye on the militias that dominate Kurdistan security operations since as recently as the end of December the Kurdistan Alliance and Baghdad remained at odds about how to handle defense of the region.