More international concerns have been recently raised regarding drug production and smuggling operations through the Syrian regime-controlled areas. Smuggling operations are considered as a threat to the region, especially with the significant increase in the rates of smuggling from the Syrian border towards Jordan and to Gulf countries, primarily Saudi Arabia. During smuggling operations, many clashes occur between Jordanian border guards and smugglers, who often flee towards Syrian territory, according to the Jordanian authorities.
This coincides with recent actions by US Congressmen French Hill and Brendan Boyle, issuing a new US law aimed at strengthening the American strategy to dismantle drug production networks linked to the Syrian regime. Both Congressmen stress that if Washington fails to reach that law, the regime will use the money earned to finance the conflict and military operations in the country and support terrorist organizations.
The Congressmen describe the drug trade in Syria as a lifeline for terrorist groups hostile to the US, referring to Lebanese “Hezbollah” militias, stressing the need for the US to move seriously and directly to counter that trade.
International reports revealed earlier that the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militias control cannabis farms in the Lebanese Bekaa region bordering the Syrian territories through affiliated gangs. The reports say that they transport hashish shipments through illegal ports they control, towards the regime-controlled areas close to the border, where drug-manufacturing, run by members of the regime, manage the production of drugs and transporting them to the border area with Jordan, in preparation for smuggling towards Jordan and the Gulf states.
Public criminality and rogue system
Commenting on the US move, political analyst Ahmed Dirani believes that Syria has effectively turned into a major hub in drug trade, not only at the regional, but also at the international level, especially since drug smuggling activities from Syria have reached Europe. The analyst points out that the regime’s regaining power over large areas of the country, especially the border areas, has contributed to reviving the drug trade and smuggling out of the country, as it is one of the means on which it relies in obtaining financing channels and money in hard currency.
Italian authorities had announced in 2020 the seizure of a shipment of drugs coming from Syria, which they described as the largest seizure of amphetamine at the global level. The quantity amounted to 14 tons of amphetamine narcotic tablets, which were hidden in three containers containing industrial paper cylinders, according to the Italian authorities.
Dirani stresses that the Syrian regime proves to the world through its policies that it is a rogue regime and it is not fit to be a political power, after it has flooded the country with drugs and seeks to flood neighboring countries as well. Dirani indicates that the Syrian regime is a risk not only for Syrians, but also for the whole region.
Dirani considers that the world and the international system must be fully convinced that the current regime cannot be dealt with, noting that the threat of Bashar al-Assad’s regime is no longer limited to political aspects and support for terrorist movements, but threatens the community structure of neighboring countries.
Over the past few days, Jordanian authorities have announced the seizure of a large shipment of drugs coming from Syria, which was hidden in sweets shipment.
In the same context, Husam Youssef, a researcher in Middle East affairs, describes the activities of the Syrian regime as open criminality and support for organized crime. The regime’s drug smuggling crime is not less than the use of barrel bombs and killings of Syrians. According to the researcher, what is happening today in the drug issue is a result of the international community’s indulgence in dealing with the crimes of Bashar al-Assad, which made him see himself above punishment.
The “New York Times” has quoted international officials confirming that the drug has become a government and regime orientation and that it could be said the Syrian regime is exporting it.
An ongoing war, stances need stronger support
The exacerbation of drug trafficking and smuggling operations into Syria, according to Youssef, opens the file of the end of the war in Syria. He points out that this phenomenon confirms that the war is still ongoing in the country and has not stopped even if its form and some of its details differ.
Youssef recalls the recent Saudi stance expressed by the Saudi representative to the United Nations, Abdullah Al-Mouallimi, stressing that the war did not end in Syria: “Do not believe if they say that the war has ended in Syria,” he said.
Al-Mouallimi, in his statements during the United Nations General Assembly meeting, indicated that priority should not be given to reconstruction, but rather to rebuilding hearts.
He accused the Syrian regime of being the first to open the doors for Hezbollah, which he described as the “leader of terrorism”.
Commenting on Al-Mouallimi’s statements, Youssef indicates that they do not carry only a political dimension, but also a civil and humanitarian dimension that does not exclude the crimes of promotion and production of drugs that threaten entire societies. He stresses that the Saudi position should receive more support from the countries of the region in international forums.
In the same context, political analyst Raed Sheikh Musa says: “Saudi Arabia’s talk that the war has not ended in Syria and the move of US Congressmen to confront the spread of drugs reveals the presence of regional and international forces that view the regime’s policies as gang crimes and that the war is not only linked to the Syrian revolution against the regime, but rather the policies of that regime,” considering that the regime of Bashar al-Assad has crossed all red lines and in all fields.
Syrian human rights organizations had described the spread of drugs in Syria as a phenomenon gradually growing until it has spread widely and noticeably, pointing out that the Sayeda Zainab area in south Damascus, where the Lebanese Hezbollah deployed, has turned into a center for the promotion and distribution of drugs.