Israel and Jordan Should Cooperate to Stop Syria’s Deadly Drug Trade

Feb. 16 2023

A powerful, dangerous, and addictive stimulant popular among Islamic State fighters and Gulf state partygoers, Captagon has in recent years become the major export of war-torn Syria. Last month, Israel caught smugglers trying to bring a large amount of the drug into its borders. Jordan, meanwhile—after largely restoring diplomatic and commercial relations with Damascus to their pre-civil-war state—has become one of the major markets for the pills, with socially deleterious results. Natalie Ecanow explores the dangers, and what can be done:

Regional seizure data from 2021 valued the Captagon trade at over $5.7 billion, eclipsing the total value of Syria’s legal exports combined. The profits are pumped straight into the coffers of Bashar al-Assad and his cronies, providing a financial lifeline to an otherwise economically moribund regime. According to the former U.S. special envoy for Syria, “the Assad regime would not survive the loss of the Captagon revenues.”

Rather than normalizing [relations] with the region’s biggest drug pusher, Washington should make clear that regional cooperation in countering narcotics is a better approach. The administration can leverage the structures of the Abraham Accords to develop a regional strategy for combatting the Captagon trade and expand the partnership between Israel and the Gulf. This could include establishing processes for law enforcement to exchange information outside of INTERPOL, which Syria rejoined in 2021. Jordan’s International Police Training Center can house a multilateral interdiction center to help provide real-time information on smuggling operations.

The shared threat of Captagon also gives Israel and Jordan reason to [breathe some life into] their often cold and tenuous peace. And, as policymakers anticipate bringing Saudi Arabia into the Abraham Accords, Washington should remind the region that Jerusalem and Riyadh both care deeply about the stability of Jordan, which the Assad-linked narcotics trade threatens to undermine.

Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Abraham Accords, Drugs, Israeli Security, Jordan, Syria

The U.S. Is Trying to Seduce Israel into Accepting a Bad Deal with Iran. Israel Should Say No

Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its quarterly report on the Iranian nuclear program. According to an analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security, the Islamic Republic can now produce enough weapons-grade uranium to manufacture “five nuclear weapons in one month, seven in two months, and a total of eight in three months.” The IAEA also has reason to believe that Tehran has further nuclear capabilities that it has successfully hidden from inspectors. David M. Weinberg is concerned about Washington’s response:

Believe it or not, the Biden administration apparently is once again offering the mullahs of Tehran a sweetheart deal: the release of $10 billion or more in frozen Iranian assets and clemency for Iran’s near-breakout nuclear advances of recent years, in exchange for Iranian release of American hostages and warmed-over pious Iranian pledges to freeze the Shiite atomic-bomb program.

This month, intelligence photos showed Iran again digging tunnels at its Natanz nuclear site—supposedly deep enough to withstand an American or Israeli military strike. This tells us that Iran has something to hide, a clear sign that it has not given up on its quest for a nuclear bomb.

Meanwhile, Antony Blinken today completes a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia, where he is reportedly pressing the kingdom to enter the Abraham Accords. This is no coincidence, for reasons Weinberg explains:

Washington expects Israeli acquiescence in the emerging U.S. surrender to Iran in exchange for a series of other things important to Israel. These include U.S. backing for Israel against escalated Palestinian assaults expected this fall in UN forums, toning down U.S. criticism regarding settlement and security matters (at a time when the IDF is going to have to intensify its anti-terrorist operations in Judea and Samaria), an easing of U.S. pressures on Israel in connection with domestic matters (like judicial reform), a warm Washington visit for Prime Minister Netanyahu (which is not just a political concession but is rather critical to Israel’s overall deterrent posture), and most of all, significant American moves towards reconciliation with Saudi Arabia (which is critical to driving a breakthrough in Israeli-Saudi ties).

[But] even an expensive package of U.S. “concessions” to Saudi Arabia will not truly compensate for U.S. capitulation to Iran (something we know from experience will only embolden the hegemonic ambitions of the mullahs). And this capitulation will make it more difficult for the Saudis to embrace Israel publicly.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Antony Blinken, Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship