The US seeks to eradicate the drug trade in Syria

The drugs trade between the US and other Arab countries in booming.

The drug network between Syria and the US and the other Arab countries has been very active in the last few years. Ahmad Abdul-Rahman looks at how the networks will be dismantled.

A few weeks ago, the US House of Representatives passed a bill asking the US government to dismantle the drug networks linked to the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. The House of Representatives also called on the US security services to develop a strategy to confront the drug trafficking networks. This was in addition to calling on the Secretaries of Defense, State, and Treasury, the Director of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and National Intelligence and the heads of federal agencies, to provide a written statement to congressional committees within 180 days on how it would disrupt and dismantle drug production and trafficking networks associated with the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.

The story of the Assad regime with the drug trade is not new, but this trade has been very active over the last 11 years. About a year ago, the British Guardian newspaper called Syria the drug state, while an investigation published by the German online newspaper Der Spiegel stated that the value of drug shipments manufactured in Syria amounted to USD5.7 billion in 2021, according to some estimates. International and regional experts and officials in several countries confirmed the increase in drug trafficking and abuse in Syria.

Hardly a week passes without announcing the discovery and seizure of shipments of drugs, especially Captagon- a psycho-stimulant-in many countries. All the drugs have come from Syria. Innovations are happening all the time for exporting these drugs, including placing them inside shipments of fruit and vegetables, or cans of infant formula and pottery dishes.

Jordan is one of the countries most affected by the export of narcotics by the Assad regime and the Iranian militias working with it, led by Hezbollah. Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi considers that drug smuggling from Syria to Jordan "constitutes a danger that has begun to escalate dramatically," stressing that the Jordanian Armed Forces deal with it on an almost daily basis. Safadi said in a press interview that there has been a rise in smuggling attempts in the past months. Consequently, he called for a change in approach and said that the armed forces are dealing with it.

The Jordanian minister pointed out that the memorandum of understanding recently signed by his country with Washington DC, in the US, is not directly related to the issue of drug smuggling between Syria and Jordan.

But Al-Safadi also stressed that the region is witnessing, "systematic work carried out by professional groups that possess large equipment and capacity to smuggle drugs to and through Jordan, part of which targets our country, and a larger part goes to our Arab brothers."

Many reports have focused on the dependence of the Assad regime, along with Iran, through Hezbollah and its other Shiite militias, on the drug trade. The main objective of the trade is for these countries to use it for financing.

However, what the Assad regime and Iran are effectively doing is using a new weapon in their war against the Arab countries. At the same time, is also directed against the Syrian interior after the world thought that Assad had mobilized his weapons in his war against the Syrians. 

The news coming from inside Syria and from the regime-controlled areas, in particular, indicates the extent of the spread of drug abuse among the remaining youth in the country. Drugs are being used to cope with the loss of hope and despair, unemployment and the collapse of the economy. Drugs are also cheap and affordable and some cost less than basic foodstuffs.

Nonetheless, the regime tries, from time to time, to announce that it is dealing with this "menace," as the regime's Minister of Interior, Muhammad al-Rahmoun, called it, when he stated on the International Day for Combating Drugs in June 2021 that "Syria participates with the international community, confirming its commitment to eradicating this "dangerous scourge". However, the regime's allegations did not deceive anyone. Everyone inside and outside knows that even when some of those involved in this trade are arrested, the matter is nothing more than a "scapegoat" in the political and media battle. But everyone also knows that manufacturing and exporting are carried out under the direct supervision of the regime and those affiliated with it, and that many factories manufacturing these materials are under the guard of the regime and the militias.

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Saturday, 04 February 2023