Assad’s billion-dollar drug industry keeps regime family ‘flush with money,’ wreaks havoc across region

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Sixty-five cardinal seized pills successful Jordan, 15 cardinal seized pills successful Saudi Arabia and 86 cardinal seized pills successful nan United Arab Emirates (UAE). These are conscionable a fistful of numbers Gulf Arab countries person dealt pinch successful caller years arsenic nan supplier Captagon is smuggled crossed nan region. 

Captagon is simply a highly addictive synthetic amphetamine-type stimulant that has grown successful fame passim nan Middle East. It is mostly produced successful Syria and Lebanon by networks of individuals connected pinch Hezbollah and nan Syrian military’s elite Fourth Division, led by President Bashar al-Assad’s brother, Maher. 

Caroline Rose, head of nan New Lines Institute’s Project connected nan Captagon Trade, told Fox News Digital Captagon appeals crossed demographics. 

"The pill's expertise to induce a euphoric unreserved attracts recreational users arsenic good arsenic those seeking to repress trauma, while others activity retired Captagon for its expertise to amended productivity, stave slumber for hours astatine a clip and trim hunger," Rose said.

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"For this reason, Captagon has had a wide entreaty crossed classes, generations and sectors. Captagon is simply a sanction known to some nan able clubgoer successful Dubai, nan assemblage student [in] Riyadh, nan cab driver successful Beirut and those struggling to find their adjacent repast successful Aleppo."

The supplier was utilized by fighters successful nan Syrian civilian war and has since been utilized arsenic a type of statement supplier successful nan Gulf that is inexpensive and akin to low-grade cocaine.

Rose said nan Captagon waste and acquisition is mostly conducted disconnected nan books, truthful it's difficult to find precisely really overmuch nan Assad authorities profits from nan illicit replacement gross source.

"The champion estimate frankincense acold that has been evaluated is from nan Syrian Observatory for Political and Economic Networks, which assesses that regime-aligned networks person made astatine slightest $7 cardinal from nan waste and acquisition successful nan past 3 years," Rose explained.

"It is known that nan largest industrial-scale manufacturing centers are located heavy wrong regime-held territory, galore of which are operated by individuals intimately aligned pinch nan Assad family, Fourth Division and/or Hezbollah."

"Even pinch accrued awareness, Western sanctions connected producers and traffickers and unit from location stakeholders, it's improbable that these networks would displacement accumulation extracurricular of Syria. Syria has nan industrial-scale infrastructure, governmental complicity and request for replacement gross that is conducive for nan Captagon waste and acquisition to thrive."

Riyadh, Amman and Dubai person seen an uptick successful Captagon smuggling successful nan past respective years, but astir precocious aft normalizing relations pinch Assad successful May 2023. 

Syria was brought backmost into nan fold and welcomed to nan Arab League past outpouring for nan first clip successful much than a decade aft it was expelled successful 2011 owed to its sadistic crackdown connected serene protesters. 

"We shouldn't person been amazed that Assad didn't ace down connected Captagon," said Andrew Tabler, nan Martin J. Gross elder chap astatine nan Washington Institute.

The cross-border supplier smuggling has deed Jordan nan astir successful caller months owed to its proximity to Syria. Tabler explained that Jordan is important arsenic a transit state to Sunni Arab Gulf states for illustration Saudi Arabia and nan Emirates, making it harder for Syrian smugglers to move Captagon done Iraq and different places owed to instability.

"Jordan ends up being, you know, caught successful nan middle, literally," Tabler told Fox News Digital.

The Jordanian service said successful precocious December that its equipped forces engaged successful a shootout pinch smugglers from Syria attempting to bring Captagon and hashish crossed nan border. 

Jordan’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sufian Qudah told a authorities news agency last month that much narcotics and weapons were seized aft different attempted smuggling operation. 

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"Drug and weapons smuggling from Syria to Jordan, which claimed and injured a number of our brave officers, correspond a nonstop threat to Jordan's security, and it will proceed to beryllium confronted pinch each determination until it is wholly defeated," Qudah said. 

Amman has responded to nan uptick successful smuggling with airstrikes successful Syria reportedly targeting suspected supplier traffickers. Syria’s overseas ministry condemned nan strikes. 

Tabler said Assad would person to beryllium incentivized to extremity aliases severely curtail nan accumulation of Captagon.

"You tin do it pinch carrots, buying him off. That's what he wants. He wants reconstruction money," he explained. "The different measurement to extremity this behaviour is through subject force. The Jordanians person utilized that many times complete nan past period and passim nan past year."

"That's nan quickest measurement to extremity anybody's behavior. But you person to beryllium capable to prolong it. And there's conscionable a batch much Captagon than location are bombs, truthful to speak, to sound them out. So, we're really astatine an impasse successful trying to fig retired really to woody pinch this."