On November 22, armed clashes resumed between locals on the Syrian-Lebanese border. According to local sources, they are a results of the disputes between the locals and the drug cartel that is operating in Syria.
Several reports claimed that the clashes broke out as a result of cartel’s intention to confiscate more lands to expand their drug production. The disputes over the prices for smuggling could also be a reason, because the locals in Lebanon are largely involved in this trade.
The destruction of the Syria’s economy and the decline in the standard of living during the civil war forced various political forces and military groups to extract additional income from drug trafficking.
Syria is known to be one of the main hubs of manufacturing of synthetic drugs, like the Captagon, that is also known as Biocapton or Fitton. This is a codrug of amphetamine and theophylline. A lot of laboratories aimed at its manufacturing are located in eastern Syria, as well as in Damascus and its outskirts.
The drug is sent to various countries all over the region. The eastern Syrian border is the main smuggling route to Lebanon, from where it is transfered to different countries like Turkey, as well as European states, by sea.
On July 23, 2021, Saudi Arabia claimed the confiscation of 2.1 million captagon tablets that arrived from Jordan in tomato paste cans belonging to the Syrian company Al-Hasnaa, branded made in Syria. On August 1, 2021, Saudi custom officers detained 8.7 million captagon tablets in cocoa bean bags in the port of Jeddah.
Despite the media claims that ISIS is mainly behind the drugs smuggling in the Middle East, such statements are rarely confirmed. The captagon is a large source of funding for different forces in Syria, especially the Free Syrian Army and HTS.
The Lebanese Hezbollah movement is also often blamed for being involved in drug trafficking. However, taking into account the current crisis, it may be supposed that all Syrian allies in Lebanon are not against such source of income. On November 6, 2015, two tons of Captagon found on board a private plane belonging to one of the Saudi princes were confiscated at Beirut airport. In July 2021, KSA border guards detained 5 million captagon tablets in a cargo of fresh pomegranates from Lebanon.
All the actors in the region are well aware of the smuggling routs and drug production facilities in Syria, including Israel that is attacking various targets in southern and eastern Syrian regions. The targets are usually Iranian-linked forces but not illegal drug laboratories. Tel Aviv likely prefers to turn a blind eye on the malicious trade near its borders, as it is interested in the distribution of dangerous drugs in Arab countries throughout the region.
Taking into account the social and economic crisis in Syria and Lebanon, the problem of drug smuggling is likely to expand in the near future.
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