Israeli FM Eli Cohen calls on int'l community to tackle Syria's drug trafficking

Syria's slow devolution into a narco-state leads to calls for international sanctions to tackle its ever-growing drug empire.

 SYRIAN PRESIDENT Bashar Assad attends the Arab League summit in Jeddah last month.  (photo credit: SAUDI PRESS AGENCY/REUTERS)
SYRIAN PRESIDENT Bashar Assad attends the Arab League summit in Jeddah last month.

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen called for a regional coalition to halt the expansion of Syria's drug production and trafficking, at an international conference on drug trafficking on Friday.  

Cohen was speaking at a conference called by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to address the growing global threat of synthetic drugs, in particular synthetic opioids. 

The most prominent of these is fentanyl, which is the primary synthetic opioid found in the United States. Since 2014, synthetic opioids have rapidly risen to be the primary cause of overdoses in the United States, overtaking all other drugs by 2021, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

By 2021, synthetic opioids accounted for nearly two-thirds of all drug deaths in the United States. With this in mind, Blinken called a conference to organize collective action by the international community to tackle synthetic drugs.

Blinken also called on the international community to tackle other synthetic drugs such as tramadol, methamphetamine, captagon, MDMA, and ketamine. One of the main sources of captagon is the Syrian Assad regime.

A customs officers displays confiscated Captagon pills (credit: REUTERS)
A customs officers displays confiscated Captagon pills (credit: REUTERS)

The Syrian narco-regime

"The scourge of drugs affects many countries in our region, which leads to the deterioration of many young people into addiction, a life of crime, and often into terrorism. I made it clear today that the main culprit in the distribution of the drug is the Assad regime which must be held accountable for its actions and we must impose significant sanctions on this drug-distributing regime," said Cohen at the conference.

"The moderate countries of the region must pool their forces and resources and fight the phenomenon. I offered the participants in the conference Israeli assistance in the areas of drug detection, strengthening of border crossings, and the fight against the distribution of drugs."

The foreign minister also compared the Syrian regime with ISIS as a destabilizing, terror-sponsoring, drug-trafficking regime.

Syria's narco-regime is being controlled by President Bashar al-Assad's younger brother Maher al-Assad and the Fourth Armored Division of the Syrian Army, according to a New York Times report. The drug trade touches all aspects of the Syrian regime with many prominent businessmen as well as the Iranian proxy Hezbollah deeply involved.

The captagon trade has begun spilling into neighboring countries with the Jordanian government bombing Syria in May killing a prominent drug kingpin, according to AP news. Cracking down on the captagon trade would no doubt restrict both Hezbollah's and the Syrian regime's access to funds.