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Saudi Arabia seizes 8 million Captagon pills as it courts Syria's Assad to clamp down

The kingdom and Jordan both want Syria to help stop the flourishing drug trade as they seek normalization with the Assad government.
Saudi Arabia announced a major Captagon bust this week, with nearly 8 million pills seized.

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.



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.



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.

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