The Syrian regime is not only using the drug trade as a revenue stream but also as a bargaining chip in normalisation efforts with the rest of the Arab world
The illicit trade of Captagon, an amphetamine-type stimulant, has taken the Middle East by storm in the last five years. While demand for the drug has exploded in the Arab Gulf, primarily Saudi Arabia, producers in regime-held Syria and along the Lebanese-Syrian border have built out capabilities and sophisticated networks for industrial-scale Captagon production and trafficking.
The trade has been estimated to grow from a $3.47bn trade in 2020 into a $10bn trade in 2022, a major alternative revenue stream for actors behind the trade.
The Captagon trade has also burgeoned into a top-line agenda item for normalisation discussions with the Syrian regime, which is considered a pivotal actor with extensive agency over production and trafficking.
In the last few weeks, regional governments have conducted a series of agreements proposing direct counter-narcotics cooperation and border security measures with Damascus, all while the US, UK, and EU have discouraged direct engagement and have imposed sanctions on key Syrian and Lebanese Captagon traffickers.
Read the full opinion piece by Caroline Rose for Al Majalla.