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LONDON: The large-scale export of Captagon from Syria and Lebanon is the legacy of a decade of conflict combined with widespread corruption, and reliance on drug revenues is turning both countries into narco -States, according to a new report from Britain’s Channel 4 News.

In Lebanon, militias and gangs operating in Hezbollah-controlled areas such as the Bekaa Valley produce up to 600,000 Captagon tablets per week, worth around $3 million if they are sold in the Gulf.

Captagon, the brand name of the amphetamine-type stimulant fenethylline, is a cheap and easy-to-produce drug previously used by Daesh fighters to fight fearlessly.

An anonymous drug producer told Channel 4 News: “Poverty and want forced me to sell Captagon.”

Lebanon is grappling with an economic collapse that has driven many of its residents to leave the country or engage in illicit activities.

Lebanese state corruption, of which Iran-backed Hezbollah is a major component, facilitates the process of manufacturing and exporting the drug.

“Crime coexists with corruption in this country. If there was no corruption, there would be no crime,” the Captagon producer said.

The Assad regime in Syria, which is facing its own currency crisis and economic collapse, is also becoming a narco-state, said Makram Rabah, a history professor at the American University of Beirut.

“At the moment, Lebanon and Syria, as well as all countries under Iranian occupation, are technically narco-states – and we are treated accordingly,” Rabah told Channel 4.

“It is unfortunately a reality that the Lebanese have not yet accepted until now, and it is something that will prevent us from recovering from the ongoing economic collapse.”

For the Assad regime, the drug trade is now a lifeline for an economy ravaged by a decade of civil war and crippling international sanctions.

In 2020, the country’s legal exports were only worth a fifth of the value of Captagon seized from Syrian drug traffickers.

According to a report by the Cyprus-based Center for Operational Analysis and Research, “Captagon’s exports from Syria reached a market value of at least $3.46 billion” that year.

Some of these Syrian drug smugglers are known to operate from the port of Latakia, a regime stronghold and under the direct control of the President’s brother Bashar Assad, who commands some of the country’s most elite and loyal combat units.

Rabah said the export of Captagon not only prevents the Syrian economy from collapsing, but is also being used as revenge against the Gulf countries who have opposed the regime’s violent crackdown on protesters and the war that has taken place. followed.

“This drug, especially recently with the start of the Syrian civil war, has become a weapon, a tool that the Syrian regime, as well as the Iranian regime, uses against both Lebanon and the Gulf,” he said. added. Captagon “has become synonymous with Hezbollah and also with the Assad regime,” he said.

The drug trade also presents a problem for the Lebanese border authorities, whose responsibility it is to prevent their export, which is pushed by other factions within the state, namely Hezbollah.

Colonel Joseph Musalim of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces said: “The manufacture and smuggling of Captagon did not exist in Lebanon before the Syrian crisis. It came after the crisis and showed traders and manufacturers that it is a profitable business.

Gulf countries responded to the deluge of Captagon from Lebanon and Syria by tightening customs restrictions on goods often used by drug traffickers.

In April last year, Saudi Arabia announced the suspension of fruit and vegetable imports from Lebanon after the seizure of more than 5 million Captagon tablets concealed in fruit.

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