Saudi authorities announced a major drug bust on Wednesday seizing more than 8 million Captagon pills, at the time that the kingdom is courting the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad to help in combatting drug smuggling.
The latest bust came as Reuters reported that Saudi Arabia has offered Syria "proposed compensation that would come as aid for the loss of the trade in the event it stops."
It added that Riyadh had offered Assad "$4 billion, based on an estimate of the value of the trade."
What happened: The Saudi General Directorate of Narcotics Control said they seized more than 8 million Captagon pills hidden in a shipment of coffee creamer. Two Syrian residents and two Pakistani residents were arrested, as well as one Syrian with an expired visitor visa. The directorate did not say where the shipment was seized.
#مكافحة_المخدرات تضبط (8,280,078) قرصًا من مادة الإمفيتامين المخدر، مخبأة في شحنة مبيّض قهوة.#الحرب_على_المخدرات#بالمرصاد pic.twitter.com/b2EU9zSVH3
— مكافحة المخدرات (@Mokafha_SA) May 10, 2023
Saudi authorities are waging an ongoing battle against drug smuggling, particularly of amphetamines and the related Captagon drug.
Why it matters: Wednesday’s bust comes as Arab governments are pressuring Syria to crack down on drug smuggling. Captagon has become a multibillion-dollar industry in war-torn Syria, and elements within the Syrian government allegedly participate in the drug trade.
Gulf countries, as well as Jordan and Lebanon, are major destinations for Captagon, in part due to high youth unemployment and other economic problems. As a result, Arab states are tying normalization with Syria to stopping the drug flow. Last week, Jordan hosted Saudi and Syrian diplomats for discussions on Syria’s return to the Arab League. The officials discussed border security and drugs during the meeting.
Syria was readmitted to the Arab League on Sunday. Some observers have criticized the Saudi alleged proposal of paying Assad $4 billion compensation, due the Syrian government’s alleged facilitation of the drug trade.
By ‘buying out’ Damascus for #captagon, Saudi Arabia and other states are informally acknowledging the regime’s overwhelming agency and sponsorship over this illicit trade.
A very different approach from accountability measures taken by the US, UK, and EU. https://t.co/5mv8ekNEWU
— Caroline Rose (@CarolineRose8) May 10, 2023
Know more: A significant escalation in the regional drug war occurred on Monday, when Jordan allegedly conducted airstrikes in southern Syria. The strikes killed the prominent Syrian drug smuggler Marai al-Ramthan, as well as his wife and six children.