I have written about the Syrian Civil war for over 10 years. Primarily, it is important to highlight two related catastrophes. The first is the immense death toll of civilians and world leaders’ general indifference to these deaths unless weapons of mass destruction were involved.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates that there have been 350,000 civilians killed between March 2011 and March 2021. The number killed by chemical weapons is around 2,000, many of those happening after the failed Obama era agreement.
The second catastrophe is the insidious toxic triangle between a corrupt and evil Syrian government and her Iranian and Russian patrons. This allowed Iran to pursue her Shiite imperial designs and Russia to regain some of her Soviet-era influence in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.
The latest installment of the tragic Syrian story revolves around a drug. The drug’s name is Captagon (fenethylline hydrochloride). It is an amphetamine the stimulates the central nervous system, making users feel euphoric, fearless, powerful and even creating a mentality of bloodlust.
How does this relate to Syria? As is well known by those who study foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs), there are direct links between FTOs, rogue regimes (like Iran, Syria, and North Korea), and drug cartels.
For example, it is believed that at least 30% of Hezbollah’s budget is from drug trafficking. A public relations campaign attempted to educate Americans who purchased narcotics during the Bush administration. By doing this, you are assisting the enemies of the United States who kill American soldiers.
Unfortunately, the following administrations have failed to continue to highlight this link to the electorate. In Syria, we add the element of Russian adventurism.
Syria’s Fourth Army division controls most of the Captagon factories in Syria, generating huge blood profits. The drug is often exported out of the ports of Tartus and Latakia, where the Russian military operates.
The Russians control the security of shipments out of these ports, and a Russian company, STG Engineering, facilitates the business of Syria’s Fourth Division. The Center for Operational Analysis and Research (COAR) reported that the Syrian-produced Captagon had a street value of at least $3.5 Billion in 2020. This would be five times more than the value of Syria’s legitimate exports.
It is also assumed that Iran’s client terror state, Hezbollah, whose past facilitation and use of the hashish and opium markets are also being used for selling and distributing Captagon. It appears that Hezbollah helps smuggle raw material for Captagon into Syria and helps to smuggle Captagon out of Syria to other locations. Hassan Daqo who has ties with Hezbollah and the Syrian Fourth Division.
Daqo, the “King of Captagon,” was arrested by Lebanese authorities in the Bekaa valley in 2021. He was accused of establishing a laboratory and then smuggling Captagon into Greece and Saudi Arabia.
This should be of great concern to the United States and its allies for multiple reasons. First, it solidifies the toxic triangle between Russia, Iran, and Syria. Second, the profits can be used both to expand Syria’s military, including her weapons of mass destruction program.
Third, the profits can support terrorism. Fourth, it amplifies the cancer of drug availability on our streets. Finally, it is another example of a rogue country embracing a role as a narco-state.
The Syrian policy under the Obama administration was one of its worst foreign policy failures in an ocean of foreign policy disasters. Two administrations later, we must deal with the aftermath of collapsed American leadership due to timidity and incompetence.
This is simply another road marker that should teach American policymakers that we can avoid these political and humanitarian disasters through clear American leadership and primacy.
This piece originally ran on Newsmax on 18 January 2022.