Drug operations: Internal crackdowns do not halt smuggling from Syria

In December 2022, the United States enacted a law to combat drugs managed by the Syrian regime, aimed at disrupting and dismantling drug production networks associated with the regime's president, Bashar al-Assad. However, the data on the ground do not reflect the desired outcomes of the law - 2007 (Reuters)

In December 2022, the United States enacted a law to combat drugs managed by the Syrian regime, aimed at disrupting and dismantling drug production networks associated with the regime's president, Bashar al-Assad. However, the data on the ground do not reflect the desired outcomes of the law - 2007 (Reuters)


Enab Baladi – Hussam al-Mahmoud

The Syrian regime continues to announce thwarting smuggling operations or the apprehension of networks and individuals involved in drug smuggling internally, with recent operations focusing on involving other countries in the issue, presenting Syrian territory as a transit and receiving point, not an exporter of drugs.

These announcements come from the regime’s Ministry of Interior and are often accompanied by accusations against other countries. However, the operation announced on March 4 was different in form, content, and presentation from previous operations.

At that time, the Ministry of Interior displayed a video recording, which spoke about the Drug Control in Aleppo seizing 470 kilograms of Captagon pills, equivalent to more than 2.8 million pills.

Contrary to the past years’ drug smuggling customs, which have seen neighboring countries, specifically Jordan, serve as the gateway and land corridor towards the Gulf counteracting those smuggling attempts, the Ministry of Interior said that the shipment originated from a neighboring country, which it did not name.

On March 3, the ministry announced the arrest of five individuals, including a girl, whom it described as users and dealers of narcotic substances, and seized an unspecified quantity in their possession. This amount could not be estimated, considering that the only accompanying picture of the narcotics was taken in a way that it was difficult to determine the sizes of the drug bags; however, their number was 19.

On February 29, one of the most dangerous individuals wanted in Aleppo was arrested for involvement in several crimes, including being a source of narcotic substances, along with a photo showing a weapon, a small amount of narcotics coinciding with the arrest of three individuals for using and dealing drugs, in possession of quantifiable narcotics, estimated at 11 packets or bags and a group of pills, as shown by the attached picture.

Half a million pills

In addition to the operations targeting small quantities compared to cross-border attempts, recently there has been an announcement of more than one smuggling attempt or a large amount of narcotics, resembling or exceeding those attempting to cross the borders.

At the end of February, individuals involved in drug trafficking and facilitating prostitution in a house in al-Kiswah in the Damascus countryside were arrested, as announced by the Syrian regime. On the 26th of the same month, the regime’s Ministry of Interior announced the seizure of half a million Captagon pills as they crossed Syrian territory from an unnamed country, according to Syrian official media which stated that the shipment was heading to Iraq.

On the same day, four drug dealers were arrested in Damascus and its countryside, in possession of 2.5 kilograms of the narcotic hashish (cannabis) and 10,000 Captagon pills.

Preceding this case, on February 16, nine individuals, including a girl, were arrested for promoting and using narcotics. An ambiguous and relatively distant photograph showed what appeared to be around 11 bags, a quantity of pills, and hashish.

Also, on February 9, the Ministry of Interior said that the al-Sukkari Police Department in Aleppo had arrested three individuals for using narcotics, and published a photo showing around 19 narcotic pills, a group of knives and machetes, and four hand grenades.

Two weeks after this operation, five individuals were arrested in Aleppo for using and promoting drugs, in their possession were 1,650 Captagon pills and 165 grams of heroin.

On the 11th of the same month, the Ministry announced the arrest of 11 individuals involved in dealing and using drugs in Deir Ezzor governorate, based on information about a network engaged in promoting and using narcotics.

In Latakia too, the Ministry of Interior arrested a network dealing and using drugs on February 8, stating that it confiscated 12 hashish bags, hashish pieces, and 900 Captagon pills.

Larger quantities, Escalating patterns

On February 7, the Drug Control in Damascus arrested a woman promoting drugs in the al-Qanawat area, seizing 50,000 Captagon pills as shown in a video recording published by the Interior Ministry.

This operation was preceded by a larger one, in terms of narcotics seized, where on February 4, the Criminal Security Branch confiscated 64,000 Captagon pills in Damascus countryside.

Since February, operations to arrest individuals accused by the Ministry of Interior of being involved in drug use or trafficking have been escalating, alongside the seizure of larger quantities compared to those in previous months.

On December 28, 2023, the Ministry of Interior accounted for the narcotics seized during the year, comprising about 259 kilograms of narcotic hashish, about 270,000 Captagon pills, and more than seven thousand medicinal pills, with smaller quantities of heroin, crystal meth, cocaine, marijuana, and Salvia.

How do neighbors perceive this?

The Jordanian expert in strategic security, Dr. Omar Basha al-Raddad, explained to Enab Baladi that the regime’s sincerity regarding the announcements of the seizure of narcotics and confrontations with smuggling networks is unclear. He considers the likeliest possibilities to be a response to the pressures exerted on Damascus.

Dr. al-Raddad said if these announcements are accurate, they raise questions about the role of the Syrian security forces in previous smuggling operations, as it is now confirmed the absence of any unified stance at the political and security levels towards taking serious measures to combat the smuggling operations. Jordanian information still affirms the involvement of leadership circles in smuggling operations.

Regarding the announcement of seizing drugs from neighboring countries, the Jordanian expert believes that this condition is merely an attempt to throw dust in the eyes, as the countries neighboring Syria are targeted, to varying degrees, with attempts to smuggle drugs into them, specifically Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey, while Lebanon, through networks associated with Hezbollah, is the only export point to Syria, from which they are exported to neighboring countries.

“Jordan is still banking on the possibility that the joint Arab efforts through the Liaison Committee will achieve positive results, despite the continued negative messages from the Syrian government and not clamping down on smuggling operations more decisively,” added the Jordanian expert Dr. al-Raddad.

Active regional efforts

All these operations coincide with regional movements to halt the smuggling attempts of drugs from Syrian territory toward Jordan, which serves as a land corridor towards the Arab Gulf states.

At the end of February, the Quadruple Cell for drug smuggling combat, which was initially formed after a meeting between the interior ministers of Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and the Syrian regime, was expanded to become a Quintuple Cell following the joining of Egypt.

The Jordanian Interior Minister, Mazen al-Faraya, announced, on February 17, the establishment of a joint contact cell comprising liaison officers from these four countries, concerned with exchanging expertise about drug smuggling operations.

This initiative was followed by a week with the Iraqi Minister of Interior, Abdul Amir al-Shammari, announcing on February 24, the actual formation of the cell, according to the Iraqi News Agency (INA).

On the 26th of the same month, the Jordanian Minister of Interior, met his Egyptian counterpart, Mahmoud Tawfik, on the sidelines of the Arab Interior Ministers meeting in Tunisia, and both sides discussed security cooperation relations between the two countries, and methods qualified to enhance them, especially in exchanging expertise and building capacities.

The Jordanian news agency “Ammon” reported that the Egyptian Minister of Interior welcomed Egypt joining the joint contact cell through future coordination with the Jordanian side, to discuss the necessary arrangements in this regard, praising the level of cooperation between the security services in combating drugs, and exchanging expertise and visits between both sides.

These measures have not yet resulted in a breakthrough in stopping the ongoing smuggling, across multiple fronts, as the Saudi authorities announced on March 3, foiling two smuggling attempts on the Saudi-Jordanian border, involving more than 63,000 Captagon pills, found hidden in two vehicles that arrived in the Kingdom via the Haditha border crossing with Jordan.

The Saudi Zakat, Tax, and Customs Authority mentioned that in the first attempt, the smuggling of more than 41,000 Captagon pills was foiled, hidden in various parts of the vehicle.

In the second attempt, the smuggling of 22,000 Captagon pills was thwarted, hidden in the same manner in a vehicle coming to the Kingdom via the same crossing.

On the other hand, Jordan announced on February 27, the results of the drug apprehension operations in various areas of Jordan and on the borders with Syria, including 12 significant cases throughout the kingdom, capturing 23 people involved in drug trafficking, promotion, and smuggling.

A smuggling attempt of two kilograms of the narcotic crystal meth was thwarted at the Jaber border center opposite the Naseeb border crossing in Syria, in addition to another one involving 70,000 narcotic pills, with the perpetrator arrested.



النسخة العربية من المقال

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