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The captagon trade and Syria

2023-02-20 00:44

Issam Khoury

The captagon trade and Syria

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) [1] for Fiscal Year 2023 included, in one of its clauses, a bill to disrupt and dismantle the production of

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) [1] for Fiscal Year 2023 included, in one of its clauses, a bill to disrupt and dismantle the production of Captagon pills produced by the regime in Syria. Representative French Hill portrayed [2] it on December 8, 2022, as a source of his pride.


In fact, drug circulation and Captagon pills in Syria before 2011 were limited to an outcast class of society, but today these substances have become circulating and widespread even in public schools, as drug traffickers are known, and most of their evenings in hotels without any fear of arrest!

Some of them have the authority to arrest, torture, and imprison those who disturb them as if they were the real state leaders.


Recently, pictures of Noah Zuaiter, one of the most prominent Lebanese drug lords, spread in several regions of Syria. In Aleppo, he was seen accompanied by the commander of the Liwa al-Quds militia, "Adnan al-Sayed."[3] Liwa al-Quds [4] is considered the most important military brigade that supported the Syrian army during the Aleppo battles against the Free Army.


Wassim al-Assad, "the son of Badi' al-Assad," boasted of having hosted Noah Zuaiter on more than one occasion, perhaps the last of which was at the Sheraton Hotel in the heart of the capital Damascus, and near the most important Syrian security branches, and he was accompanied by "Ali Taljah", who is one of the most prominent leaders of Maher al-Assad's office, and Muhammad Zaarzar, one of the leaders of the Fourth Division of Syrian Army.


It is remarkable that Noah Zuaiter is wanted by the International Criminal Police Organization, and Lebanese intelligence, which has long coordinated its actions with Syrian intelligence. The Lebanese army also clashed with drug smugglers linked to Noah on more than one occasion, but the Syrian regime did not take the initiative to arrest him, or even to arrest him!


Noah Zaiter, born in 1977, was born in the town of Taalabaya, which belongs to the Zahle district in the Lebanese Bekaa region. He is known for his close relationship with Hezbollah. He participated in the Qalamoun battles alongside Hezbollah with the aim of eliminating the Sunni armed groups opposing Assad "Al-Nusra", and since then Then, he gained many powers that enabled him to expand his commercial activities related to drugs, to be the master of the Syrian markets, in coordination with Assad's relatives. In the year 2020, a shipment containing four tons of Captagon [5] was seized and packed in the containers of the Milkman company [6], which belongs to the cousin of the Syrian President, Rami Makhlouf.


The confiscated consignment of Melekman in the port of Port Said was not the last, as the spread of the Syrian Captagon expanded to many countries such as Iraq, and the Syrian Captagon reached Europe. In a report published by the BBC in December 2020, 850 million pills coming from Syria were seized Italy [7], as Greece seized in April 2021, 4 tons of Syrian hashish destined for Slovakia [8], and Saudi Arabia seized 2.4 million Captagon pills stuffed in pomegranates from Lebanon, and in December 2022 Jordan seized six million Captagon pills "packed in pills." dates" [9] coming from Iraqi territory, which indicates that the Captagon production and distribution network is not limited to Syria and Lebanon alone, but has expanded to include Iraq, which indicates that all countries under the control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard are home of this illegal trade.


This trade generates huge profits for its Syrian leaders, as the Center for Operational Analysis and Research (COAR) [10] estimated it at $3.46 billion in 2020 alone.


Certainly, the Syrian regime is able to manage the operations of producing and distributing Captagon without referring to Noah and his Lebanese criminal network, but the Iranian Revolutionary Guard insists that Noah Zaiter be the spearhead in managing this trade, because the latter is internationally known, and he is not afraid to show himself publicly, unlike the general Syrian mafia leaders who secretly worked in this trade, such as Muhammad al-Assad [11], "aka Sheikh of the Mountain," who was killed in March 2015.


From here, the Syrian regime [12] decided to highlight leaders from the Syrian mafia working in the Captagon, so that they would be visible in the open, to monopolize Assad's relatives like Wassim al-Assad over this lucrative trade, and not be subordinate to Noah or even partners with him. This strategy sends a message to the West, which imposes economic sanctions on the Syrian regime, that the regime is indifferent to those sanctions.


Officially, the Syrian government [13] did not announce its adoption of the drug trade. On the contrary, it described the decision to combat the American Captagon as a new means of pressure against the leadership of Damascus, with the aim of intensifying economic sanctions against the Syrian people.


Indeed, we realize that the Syrian government, with its ministers and official departments, suffices with political statements contradictory to the living reality, while the real authority in Syria is the grip of the Syrian army and the Syrian intelligence related to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah.


This is logical, as the Syrian government is economically unable to find financial resources to run its corrupt institutions, especially since the Syrian Democratic Forces control the oil, cotton, and wheat fields, and the Sunni opposition militias control the olive resources and the border crossings with Turkey, which means that the taxes imposed on the people are the only resource for the Syrian government treasury, and in light of the state of extreme poverty experienced by the Syrian people, these taxes become useless.



From here, the Syrian security and military regime resorted to a war economy based on the drug trade, and it is trying hard to intimidate the international community from this trade, to push this community to reconcile with it, so that it takes the initiative in the future to stop these captagon networks and restore Syria to its former era.


Of course, this opportunistic behavior was practiced by the Syrian regime by intimidating the international community with the terrorists who were released from detention centers with the aim of fighting the Americans in 2003. It consecrated it after the 2011 revolution, which resulted in the emergence of the terrorist organization ISIS, and today this regime is trying to strengthen it through Captagon, after it turned Syria into a real mafia state in the Middle East.



[1] https://www.dol.gov/agencies/owcp/FECA/NDAA2023

[2] https://hill.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=9049 Washington, DC, December 8, 2022 “My bill to disrupt and dismantle the Assad regime’s production and trafficking of the lethal narcotic Captagon was included. I am proud of this accomplishment and will continue to work tirelessly to prevent the Assad regime from furthering their influence and the international prevalence of Captagon.”

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfwyacpkOlQ

[4] Liwa al-Quds or the Jerusalem Brigade is a predominantly Palestinian militia that operates as a part of pro-Syrian government forces in the Syrian Civil War. It was formed in 2013 by the engineer Muhammad al-Sa'eed. 

[5] https://haspedia.com/2020/04/13/%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D8%A3%D8%B7%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AE%D8%AF%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D9%82%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%85%D8%A9-%D9%85%D9%86-%D9%85%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%A6-%D8%B3/

[6] https://al-akhbar.com/Arab/287679

[7] https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-europe-55389791

[8] https://www.elnashra.com/news/show/1500246/%D8%AA%D8%AC%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%8F%D8%AE%D8%AF%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%82%D8%B5%D9%91%D8%A9-%D8%B6%D9%88%D8%A1-%D8%A3%D8%AE%D8%B6%D8%B1-%D8%AA%D9%86%D8%AA%D9%87-%D9%81%D9%8F%D8%B5%D9%88%D9%84%D9%87-%D8%A8%D8%B9

[9] https://alssaa.com/post/show/14029

[10] https://coar-global.org/2021/04/27/the-syrian-economy-at-war-captagon-hashish-and-the-syrian-narco-state/ 

[11] https://www.ennaharonline.com/%D9%85%D9%82%D8%AA%D9%84-%D8%A7%D8%A8%D9%86-%D8%B9%D9%85-%D8%A8%D8%B4%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D8%B3%D8%AF-%D9%85%D8%AD%D9%85%D8%AF-%D8%AA%D9%88%D9%81%D9%8A%D9%82-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D8%B3%D8%AF/

[12] Al-Assad Family, and Syrian intelligence, and the shabiha

[13] Ministers and official members of the government

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