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Over the past years, Syria has become, in the eyes of Arab and Western countries, a “drug state”, and this is linked to the large shipments that exited from it and crossed the borders to reach Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and further countries, such as Italy, Greece and Romania.

These shipments ranged between “Captagon pills” and “stop cannabis”, while the ways of smuggling them varied. Sometimes in milk cartons and tea leaves, and sometimes in cardboard rolls, egg dishes and fruit pods.

According to security reports from several countries, the Syrian regime is considered primarily responsible for smuggling and manufacturing what these shipments contain, which has gradually turned into a “great commercial gain”, with economic benefits for it on the one hand, and for the Lebanese “Hezbollah”, whose agents are spread in separate areas. Inside Syria, on the other hand.

This “commercial gain” has undergone several transformations, most notably that its production is no longer outside the borders, turning Syria from a country to cross it to the rest of the world, to the first source of industrialization, which was indicated by Western media reports, including the Guardian newspaper.

At a time when accusations were leveled against the Syrian regime repeatedly, the latter did not take a clear official position to respond during the past years, while the Syrian Ministry of Interior tended from time to time to announce “seizures of shipments” inside Syrian territory.

It is noteworthy at the present time that the announcement of the seizure of shipments is taking an upward trajectory, and according to what the “Al-Hurra” website monitored on the Syrian Ministry of Interior’s Facebook page, more than 20 seizures were announced during last November only.

One of these operations occurred in the thirtieth of the same monthThe Syrian regime authorities announced the seizure of more than half a ton of the narcotic “Captagon” pills, as part of a shipment of pasta that was intended for export to Saudi Arabia.

Is there an inflection?

The aforementioned path, whose details have seemed remarkable since the beginning of last November, raises several questions about the reasons that prompted the Syrian regime to intensify its campaigns against drug dealers and smugglers, and whether this is true and is actually applied on the ground.

On the other hand, there are questions about the secret of timing, especially since the “intensification of campaigns against smuggling and promotion” by the Syrian regime comes at a time when there is a lot of talk about attempts to open channels of dialogue with Arab countries.

It also came months after it took control of a large part of the Syrian border with Jordan, after conducting “security settlement” operations in Daraa governorate, and then reactivating the trade movement through the “Nasib-Jaber” crossing.

According to Syrian researchers and analysts, whom the “Al-Hurra” website spoke to, the new path taken by the Syrian regime is part of a “reputation change”, which has been attached to the areas under its control for years.

On the other hand, the regime is trying to “acquit itself” of industry, trade and smuggling operations inside and outside the country, especially since the accusations are mostly linked to figures close to it, and others linked to the Lebanese “Hezbollah”.

The former Syrian diplomat, Bassam Barbandi, believes that “the Syrian regime’s desire to say that it confiscates drugs are messages to the targeted countries, to the effect that it is working hard to stop smuggling.”

In statements to Al-Hurra, Barbandi indicated that all the official Jordanian statements issued in the past months were clear, and that “one of the most important goals of communication with the Syrian regime is to combat drug smuggling.”

The Syrian diplomat added, “Saudi Arabia’s ban on the entry of any Lebanese goods is due to the huge quantities of drugs smuggled through Syria. In the sense that the latter has turned from a smuggling corridor to a manufacturing country.”

For his part, Nawar Shaaban, a Syrian researcher at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies, says that “the Syrian regime now aspires to consolidate and revive the relationship with neighboring countries, including Saudi Arabia.”

Thus, his “advertised campaigns on drugs” fall into the context of the aforementioned “ambition”.

The researcher added to Al-Hurra that “the issue of drugs is considered a positive thing in Saudi Arabia. The regime uses its campaigns as a kind of courtship.”

While Shaaban doubts the validity of the announced campaigns by the Syrian regime, Barbandi confirms this, noting that “the large volume of drugs in the Syrian market gives an indication of the volume of drug laboratories production.”

And he continues, “The regime’s arrest of some smugglers or the seizure of narcotic drugs reflects its lack of seriousness, inability or desire to stop this phenomenon.”

“big project”

In its report, in May 2021, the British newspaper “The Guardian” said that the border between Syria and Lebanon was lawless, and it had become A hotbed for smuggling, involving officials on both sides.

Smugglers transport hashish and Captagon via a road that extends from the Lebanese Bekaa Valley and the Syrian border city of Qusair, and roads north towards the ports of Lattakia and Tartus.

According to “The Guardian”, Latakia is under the heavy surveillance of American and European security and intelligence services. Despite this, some smuggling operations occurred from the source, and they were later thwarted.

“A drug state” .. Syria turns into a “global center for the production of Captagon”

The manufacture of the drug Captagon in the heart of the Syrian regime has become a commercial success story for an economy that is growing to compete with the gross domestic product of the Syrian economy, but in return it turns Syria into a drug country, according to a report from the British Guardian newspaper.

The operations included five tons of Captagon pills found in Greece, in 2019, and two similar shipments in Dubai in the same year, and four tons of hashish that were found in the Egyptian port of Port Said in April 2020.

Contrary to the narrative of Western and Arab countries, the Syrian political analyst residing in Damascus, Alaa Al-Asfari, spoke of a “large project led by the Syrian state to eliminate any drug presence in Syria.”

Al-Asfari said in statements to Al-Hurra website: “During the past period, the state did not fail in this matter, but there were obstacles, including the lack of cooperation of international organizations and bodies that oversee the fight against and drug trafficking.”

Among the “impediments” also, according to the political analyst, “the presence of illegal crossings that have been exploited by militants and regional countries to promote drug cultivation,” adding that “the return of a lot of lands to state control had an impact on the escalation of combat operations.”

Asfari expects “more of these operations, whether inside Syria or during transit.”

The regime’s steps towards “drugs” were not separated from the “full Arab openness”.

And the political analyst continues, “The above are a set of factors through which Syria will be a pioneer in the field of detecting trafficking. Now also, cooperation has begun between the drug security services in Syria and the other in the brotherly Arab countries.”

Dangerous file compression

Meanwhile, the Syrian journalist, Ayman Abdel Nour, reads the regime’s “new approach” to the drug file as being linked to strong resentment on the part of Arab countries, and thus would prevent a return to the Arab League.

Abdel Nour told Al-Hurra: “The regime is working to change the reputation, but all this is fake and for the media. This trade will remain because it is an essential part of the Syrian regime’s economic survival.”

The Syrian journalist referred to meetings that may be related to what the situation has reached today, including “the recent meeting between the head of Saudi intelligence, Major General Khaled Humaidan, and Ali Mamlouk, advisor to the president of the Assad regime for security affairs.”

In addition to the recent Emirati visit to Damascus, where the Abu Dhabi delegation included a number of officials, including Ali Muhammad Al Shamsi, head of the Federal Authority for Identity, Nationality, Customs and Ports Security, according to Abdel Nour.

For his part, Barbandi, a former Syrian diplomat, says that “the issue of drugs in Syria is dangerous because it raises a deeper question: Were Hezbollah and Iran able to create a Syrian market and environment for drug manufacturing and smuggling in a way that is greater than the regime’s ability to stop it, even though it is a partner in it?”

Barbandi added that “the spread of drugs in all Syrian cities (with the regime or outside its control) and among the youth is a phenomenon that exists in Syria, and their prices are cheap, meaning that there is a continuation of the project to destroy those who are still in the country.”

As for the Syrian researcher, Nawar Shaaban, he believes that the path of the previous or current regime “has not and will not be different.”

Shaaban considered that “the drug trade in Syria is profitable on both sides, whether during the process of economic normalization or during the absence of relations.”

What about Saudi Arabia?

Hardly a week passes without the authorities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announcing the seizure of huge shipments of drugs, especially Captagon pills.

In April of this yearSaudi Arabia decided to prevent shipments of Lebanese vegetables and fruits from entering it or transiting through its territory, after seizing a shipment of pomegranate containing Captagon pills.

“Pomegranate nitrate” and economic deterioration.. An expert clarifies the dimensions of the Saudi ban on Lebanese agricultural products

The Lebanese writer, Hanna Saleh, considered in his interview with Al-Hurra website that Saudi Arabia’s decision to prevent the entry of Lebanese fruits and vegetables to it after seizing more than 5.3 million Captagon pills hidden in a shipment of pomegranates, on Friday, is “farther and more dangerous to the Lebanese than any previous decision.” .

The official Saudi Press Agency quoted a statement of the Ministry of Interior at the time that the ban will continue until the relevant Lebanese authorities provide sufficient and reliable guarantees regarding measures to stop smuggling operations.

For its part, Lebanese media had revealed that the source of the “Pomegranate Stuffed with Captagon” was Syrian territory.

According to information published by Al-Gomhoria newspaper, pomegranate trucks entered Lebanon from Syria through the “Al-Aboudia” crossing, and then headed to the Bekaa Valley, where they stayed in a warehouse for a week, during which they were transferred to Lebanese trucks.

The Saudi military and strategic expert, Major General Abdullah Ghanem al-Qahtani, rules out that there will be a “turn on the part of the Syrian regime in any positive matter, especially in the drug file.”

Al-Qahtani told Al-Hurra: “He has known the secrets of smuggling for a long time, especially those heading to Saudi Arabia, and his announcement two days ago that the shipments had been seized is unusual, and it may be the only situation. Even in light of good relations, these things were not announced.”

The new position of the Syrian regime is not “within the framework of the fight against drugs.” Rather, it seems that the latter “wants through the announcement, if true, to send a positive message to Riyadh, as if it was a kind of courtship to restore relations.”

The military expert adds, “However, this position on the Syrian regime is not intended for good. Rather, it is a message addressed to Riyadh that it is part of an Arab system, and is ready to cooperate with the Arabs. He knows that the matter will not come far from Saudi Arabia.”

“Foresight stage”

For his part, the Jordanian political analyst, Amer Al-Sabayleh, says that the Syrian regime is looking forward at the current stage to “close openness to the Arab countries.”

He added to Al-Hurra website that the Syrian regime “is fully aware that the most important and balanced country is Saudi Arabia and realizes that positive messages must be sent towards it.”

The symbolism of the move to prevent smuggling and thwart attempts, according to Sabayleh, is to show that “the regime plays a positive role towards the Gulf states and their security. This may represent the beginning of a launch for the idea of ​​security coordination, then political, and then the return of relations with Saudi Arabia.”

But Al-Qahtani considers the Syrian regime’s position on the drug issue “opportunistic and nothing more than that.”

He says, “His message is that he is ready to seize the shipments. This is an excuse worse than a sin, as if he says that he knew about it before and now he wants to cooperate. What about other shipments that cross from Syria and are definitely manufactured there?”





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