Voices from the Arab press: Eliminating the supply chain of drugs

A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world.

 STUDENTS TRAIN in the Drug and Poison Division of King Fahad Security College, in Riyadh.  (photo credit: Fahad Shadeed/Reuters)
STUDENTS TRAIN in the Drug and Poison Division of King Fahad Security College, in Riyadh.
(photo credit: Fahad Shadeed/Reuters)

Eliminating the supply chain of drugs

Okaz, Saudi Arabia, June 1

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A security campaign that commenced in the kingdom prior to Eid al-Fitr has focused on targeting the sources of drugs and contraband in an effort to completely eliminate them. Saudi Arabia’s security services quickly deployed around the country, catching drug users, smugglers and dealers off guard.

The goal of the operation was to tackle the criminal network of smugglers that had grown due to the rampant illegal imports from countries and international organizations into Saudi Arabia. These inspections were designed to put a stop to the criminal activities that threatened to disrupt Saudi Arabia’s civilizational development.

The campaign consisted of the arrest of hundreds of drug users. In a month’s time, the relevant authorities had access to a vast database containing the names, numbers, and locations of people connected to the drug trade – from the drug users to the sellers, distributors, merchants, and sources of drugs in the country of origin.

By carrying out a well-crafted search operation, turning in the suspects to the Public Prosecution, and taking advantage of the information obtained, the authorities were successful in unearthing the illegal drug network and dismantling it bit by bit. It proved to be highly effective.

The recent airstrike over southern Syria that resulted in the elimination of a well-known drug dealer – supposedly carried out by the Jordanian Air Force – reveals that the issue of drug trafficking is a concern for other Middle East nations as well. Captagon – an addictive, amphetamine-type stimulant mass-produced in Syria – has become a tool used by global forces and merchants to destroy certain countries, most notoriously Saudi Arabia.

 A PROTESTER carries a portrait of Lebanese Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, north of Beirut.  (credit: ANWAR AMRO/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)
A PROTESTER carries a portrait of Lebanese Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, north of Beirut. (credit: ANWAR AMRO/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)

The recent announcements from the Interior Ministry have revealed the presence of Saudi individuals, merchants, and even gangs of citizens behind a sophisticated and dangerous criminal enterprise. It begs the question: Has this illicit operation been driven by the need to make money quickly, the spread of global criminal activity, or the misguided belief that crime pays?

It is clear that engaging in drug trafficking is an appalling crime that should not be taken lightly, if at all. The sons and daughters of this nation must be aware of the consequences of such treacherous actions, as any involvement in organized crime that enables the sale of illicit substances is deemed as an act of betrayal that is punishable by death. – Mohammed al-Saed 

Lebanon’s path forward might be dependent on Hezbollah

Nidaa Al Watan, Lebanon, June 2

It was far from easy for President Emmanuel Macron to hear from Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, the head of Lebanon’s Maronite Church, that most of the country’s Christian population opposed the appointment of a joint candidate from Hezbollah for the presidency. Macron must have been disappointed when his initiative to nominate Suleiman Frangieh, leader of the Marada Movement, fell short of success, yet he was wise enough to encourage the country to press ahead with seeking a consensus.

When French interests are set aside, the goal of avoiding an indefinite political impasse is admirable. Moreover, Macron showed no qualms about defending Frangieh as the only viable option who had “passed Hezbollah’s test.”

This kind of political realism may work for a superpower like France, but the recent protests in Lebanon have revealed a growing sentiment of desperation amongst citizens to free themselves from a corrupted elite, as well as to no longer be victim to threats and intimidations. Perhaps Macron was justified in his worry about the potential long-term damage caused by an extended vacancy in the premiership, which would only exacerbate Lebanon’s economic woes.

Obstruction resulting from Hezbollah ran deep – considerably beyond the two-and-a-half-year wait for Michel Aoun’s inauguration as president – forming crippling delays in the establishment of government and constitutional institutions. However, Macron’s warning to Patriarch Al-Rahi of the dangers of attempting to convene a “founding conference” – driven by Hezbollah with an aim of threatening the security of Christians’ position in the state – appears to be based on a lack of appreciation for the fragility of Lebanese society and politics. It represents an attempt to absolve France of historical responsibility toward Christians in the hope of absolving its sense of guilt.

This calls for two things. First, Hezbollah appears to be prioritizing its own influence over the Lebanese political scene with the complicity of Christian officials. Secondly, many Christians are no longer afraid of a potential Hezbollah-organized constituent conference as the current system has failed to protect them and they want a new political framework that grants them security, prevents their children from leaving Lebanon, and ensures their quality of life.

Moreover, Hezbollah is achieving domination of the government apparatus without the need to overtly declare that it is furthering Shi’ite interests. The election of a consensual president in Lebanon may be a welcome surprise for Lebanon. This president may be able to make a serious attempt to reestablish the state by implementing the Taif Agreement and breaking free from the vacuum of the old system.

In order to ensure civil peace and preserve the rights of Lebanese citizens, a constituent conference should be held to discuss practical ways to break away from the archaic, centralized political structure of the “old” Lebanon. Such a move could perhaps provide a clearer path for the future of Lebanon. – Bechara Charbel 

Practical alternatives to Gulf agreements

Al-Ittihad, UAE, May 31

Implementing collective agreements between GCC states has been a difficult task due to administrative, regulatory, and legislative reasons associated with getting all six member states to reach a consensus. However, there might be a practical way forward. A new model for cooperation in the Gulf region proposed the idea of GCC states joining agreements sequentially, as long as two member states have already agreed to their terms.

This method allows for a gradual implementation of the agreements, preventing their obstructions and removing one of the biggest hindrances that have stalled significant collective decisions from being made to date. Doing this will push Gulf action forward and speed up the integration of the region’s economies.

For example, the anticipated Gulf “Schengen” visa is projected to initially involve Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, with the remaining states joining when they are prepared to do so. It is noteworthy that some members of the Gulf Cooperation Council have signed free trade agreements with various third-party countries, in order to capitalize on the potential opportunities these agreements offer, such as increased exports.

This wasn’t done collectively, together with all GCC states. Although some negative aspects may result from this approach, the overall outcome is positive, and circumstances surrounding such scenarios are never absolute. It is evident that the development of collective agreements is essential in today’s globalized world. Thus, it is important to establish a pathway towards the implementation of such agreements.

This can be done by creating a scaffolding wherein the most developed countries are able to begin implementation right away, providing the necessary incentive that prompts the remaining GCC states to join in. This method is adopted by many global economic blocs, such as the European Union, and is favored by many, as it allows for collective agreements to still be implemented despite the lack of readiness of certain countries.

The integrated economic system allows the group to reach a stage of standardized regulations and create a common market, ensuring the continuance of collective agreements and further economic progress. – Mohammed Al-Asoomi

Saudi Arabia: A quick visit and a glimpse into the future

Al-Ahram, Egypt, June 2

I recently had the privilege of visiting Saudi Arabia. I forged strong ties and friendships with various members of the royal family, prominent intellectuals, writers, and visionaries during my stay. I was particularly privileged to take part in a poetry evening hosted by the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in Dhahran. Established by the world’s leading oil corporation, Aramco, this grand cultural center serves as a gift to the Saudi people.

I confess to having immensely enjoyed the poetry reading held in the dazzling theater, complete with an accompanying band. The event formed part of a program promoting reading in the Arab world, with many Arab intellectuals attending, most notably the celebrated Syrian poet Adunis. This was his second visit to Saudi Arabia in under a month.

Despite the brevity of my visit, I had the chance to witness the new Saudi Arabia, a far cry from its past, be it near or distant. There is a clear shift taking place on the Saudi streets: women are emerging in a prominent role and taking on a variety of occupations without fear of societal judgment or guardianship.

I firmly believe that Saudi women will be the driving force behind progress and development. It is no longer about politics or adorning the hijab, but rather, it is about recognizing the importance of educating women at home and abroad – an integral building block in the success and advancement of society.

This collective effort is evident in the many extraordinary Saudi women who are examples of this progress. I also followed the project of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with admiration, considering the scope of his ambitions and the difficulties he inevitably faces in order to achieve societal reform, economic development, and global alignment.

His pursuit of modernizing the Saudi state, transitioning it away from singularly relying on oil-based production to one that encompasses agriculture, industry, and tourism, all while generating employment opportunities for the upcoming generations, is laudable. Although his journey toward transformation involves numerous political and security challenges, it has only served to further solidify his commitment to carrying out reform.

I believe that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has greatly benefited from the vast political experience of his father, King Salman, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Due to King Salman’s extensive expertise in governance, he has provided a strong foundation in politics and international relations.

His years as emir of Riyadh gave him an unparalleled mastery of Saudi politics, allowing him to take decisive action and steer the country’s affairs. Today, there is widespread backing for the forces of modernization in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi youth are at the vanguard of these progressive movements; supported by some of the country’s top advisors and politicians. The new wave of openness in Saudi Arabia has sparked a dialogue that is allowing society to assess and reconcile its path forward.

Similarly, the international community is keenly setting its eyes on Saudi Arabia, a particularly important nation for the millions of Muslims all over the world, with a rich history and immense size. The experience of Saudi Arabia – the country that is holiest in religion, largest in size, and richest in oil – is something that the world is keenly observing.

In the face of numerous programs that seek to bring progress, openness, and change, the kingdom is consequently striving to find a balance between modernization and preserving its traditional values.

Millions of people from around the globe frequent Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage and find safety and security in its borders. During my brief visit, it seemed that religion and history are both being deeply impacted by the current events transpiring in the country, and I only wish that the nation navigates this period with wisdom and security. – Farouq Jwaideh

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.