The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on two cousins of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for trafficking the stimulant drug captagon, a growing export for the state, which is rapidly normalizing ties in the region.
An AFP investigation in November found that Syria is a narco-state with a $10 billion captagon industry disrupting all other exports and funding Assad and many of his enemies.
The United States, in cooperation with Britain, announced that they were imposing sanctions on the two cousins of the President, Samer Kamal al-Assad and Wassem Badi al-Assad on the drug trade.
Samer Kamal al-Assad has a factory in the coastal city of Latakia that produced 84 million captagon pills in 2020, the US Treasury Department said.
“Syria has become a world leader in the production of highly addictive captagon, much of which is trafficked through Lebanon,” said Andrea Gacki, a senior Treasury official handling sanctions.
“Together with our allies, we will hold accountable those who support the Bashar al-Assad regime with illegal drug revenue and other financial means that enable the regime’s continued oppression of the Syrian people,” she said in a statement.
Others targeted in the sanctions include Nouh Zaitar, Lebanon’s most notorious drug lord on the run from authorities, and Hassan Dekko, a Lebanese-Syrian drug lord with high-level connections in both countries.
Under the Treasury action, the United States will freeze any assets on US soil held by alleged drug traffickers and conduct transactions with them in their crimes.
Saudi Arabia has long been the biggest market for captagon, an amphetamine derived from a one-law treatment for narcolepsy and attention disorder, with the cheap drug appealing to both the wealthy and the working poor in the Islamic country. alcohol taboo.
The US action comes as pleas for other nations not to normalize relations with Assad are increasingly ignored.
In March Assad made his second visit to the United Arab Emirates in as many years, and neighboring Turkey, long a key supporter of the rebels, has opened up to the Damascus government.
Assad, with the help of Russian air power, has largely restored control of Syria after the conflict that killed half a million people, displaced half of the country’s pre-war population and saw the rise of the State extremist group Muslims.