Beneath the surface there is a hidden war that is less talked about – the Syrian government produces and distributes captagon to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East.
While Iran continues to establish itself in Syria, establishing “terrorist bases” and transferring advanced weapons to Damascus – another war is being waged beneath the surface. Assad’s regime, with the help of Hezbollah, produces and distributes the drug Captagon to the countries of the region and especially to Saudi Arabia. The smuggling that comes out of Syria generates billions of dollars a year for the terrorist organizations and helps Assad keep his head above water, to the extent that Syria has become a world name in supplying the “drug of jihad” to the Saudi kingdom.
According to reports in Saudi Arabia, in the last six years the authorities have thwarted the smuggling of 600 million captagon pills – but hundreds of millions more were not thwarted and found their way to the streets of the kingdom where there is a large market for the dangerous drug that is becoming popular in the country. It seems that even though Saudi Arabia is aware of the problem, the rate of Captagon use among teenagers and young adults aged 12-22 is only going up – it’s about a fifth of the population.
In recent years, Syria has become a global production powerhouse of the “jihad drug” which is considered cheap and addictive, but no less – accessible. The large revenues from these smugglings allow Syria to keep its head above water. However, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is working to combat the phenomenon, there are concerns about the matter that may destabilize and intensify the negative effects.
Revenues from Captagon exports – 30 billion dollars in 2022
The revenue numbers tell the story of the drug industry’s set-up that aims to generate significant profits. According to the data, in 2022 the revenues from the export of the Katafagon from Syria were estimated at about 30 billion dollars. While in Syria and Lebanon the cost of the drug is a dollar or two, in Saudi Arabia the price of the drug has risen to about 25 dollars and the profits are obviously significant.
Back to 2021, drug smuggling from Lebanon to Saudi Arabia led to a serious crisis in relations between the countries following a series of smuggling attempts. In April 2022, 5 million pills of the “jihad drug” were found in a shipment of grenades that arrived in the Kingdom from Lebanon. This infuriated the Saudis, who announced that they were banning the import of goods from the land of cedars and hinted at Hezbollah’s involvement in the matter.
However, even the measures to increase security supervision did not stop the ongoing smuggling and turned the terrorist organization into a drug trafficking empire.
In Syria, it was recently reported that the regime allowed local importers to import goods from Saudi Arabia, apparently in an attempt to soften the kingdom’s position and promote reconciliation. But from the point of view of Saudi Arabia – the fight against Hezbollah’s activity is important before it aligns the generations with the Assad regime which brings money into its coffers, while the social fabric in Saudi Arabia may be damaged.
“It made me steal and hurt my family”
In an interview with Arab media, a young Saudi shared his personal story and presented a disturbing picture. “I started using Captagon in the 9th grade, a classmate gave me a pill and claimed it would help me study and pass my exams successfully,” he said. “Since that day, I started saving and giving my pocket money to that friend so he could buy me more Captagon. I used to consume it very often when I got addicted. After I finished school, a significant part of my salary went to Captagon – until the addiction affected my functioning.”
“In the end I had to sell valuables from my house to buy Captagon,” he continued. “I allocated a monthly amount to this instead of supporting my family and isolated myself.” Following his difficult past and the negative effects that the “Jihad drug” had on him, the young man added that “Captagon is not a magic pill, its effects were terrible and caused me to distance myself from society, mental and physical difficulties and financial struggles. It caused me to steal, hurt my family and leave them without enough money.”
Captagon is a dangerous and highly addictive drug that gives a feeling of great energy and euphoria, suppresses the appetite and the need for sleep – a winning recipe for the jihadists. It is considered a common drug among operatives of terrorist organizations, led by Hezbollah and ISIS.
A look at another scene – just last week, an attempt to smuggle tens of thousands of Captagon bullets from Judea and Samaria to the Gaza Strip was foiled at the Tarkomiya crossing. The goods that arrived in the truck raised the suspicion of Kiryat Gat police officers who located packages that had been cleared and contained tens of thousands of drug pills, with a total weight of about 9.6 kg and an estimated value of tens of thousands of shekels.
In recent years, the drug has also become popular in the Gaza Strip with tens of thousands of addicts, especially among young people who are in the cycle of unemployment and feel despair. Israel’s military presence along the border with Syria helps to prevent the phenomenon from spreading to its territory, but the big problem of the spread of the captagon is still ahead of us and if Saudi Arabia and the countries of the region do not step up their fight – it could blow up in their faces.
February 5, 2023 Published by The MAKO News.