Syria’s Drug Trade Threatens a New Crisis for the Middle East

While the Iran-backed terrorist group Hizballah has long been involved in the South American cocaine trade—an important source of its revenue—it has in recent years also been exporting a stimulant called Captagon. Much of its supply is coming from nearby Syria, where the Hizballah-allied regime has turned to drug production to fund its efforts to win the ongoing civil war. Matthew Zweig explains:

Captagon is a brand name for a dangerous, addictive amphetamine-type drug that includes fenethylline hydrochloride. . . . This turn to the drug trade signals a new phase in the Syrian conflict: the emergence of Syria as a narco-state. . . The Captagon drug trade not only facilitates Assad’s atrocities against the Syrian people, but could also create further instability through the widespread proliferation of amphetamine usage in the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond.

Conflict, destruction, and territorial fragmentation are key factors allowing armed groups and narco-entrepreneurs to profit from the drug trade. Large-scale narcotics production and trafficking by rogue regimes or in ungoverned or under-governed spaces often sows further regional instability, leading to higher criminality and public health problems in consumer and producer countries. This pattern is now taking hold in Libya, where there is a burgeoning Captagon trade with reported Syrian links.

Furthermore, narcotics markets are not static. Today’s Captagon amphetamine markets could easily transform into far more potent methamphetamine markets, which happened in Afghanistan. The political wars of today’s Middle East risk becoming the lethal narco-wars of tomorrow.

Read more at Newsweek

More about: Drugs, Hizballah, Middle East, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy