Lebanon’s humiliation as an exporter of drugs and terrorism

Lebanon’s humiliation as an exporter of drugs and terrorism

Saudi customs at Jeddah Islamic Port foiled an attempt to smuggle Captagon pills hidden in pomegranates that came from Lebanon. (SPA file photo))
Saudi customs at Jeddah Islamic Port foiled an attempt to smuggle Captagon pills hidden in pomegranates that came from Lebanon. (SPA file photo))
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The flood of narcotics from Hezbollah-controlled areas of Syria and Lebanon is “enough to drown the entire Arab world in drugs and psychotropic substances,” according to Riyadh’s ambassador to Lebanon. Hezbollah and Assad’s regime sit astride a multibillion-dollar narcotics trade: Captagon smuggling to Saudi Arabia alone netted an estimated $1 billion last year.

In the past decade there has been a murderous expansion in Captagon production, from small factories in the Beqaa and Shabaa Farms to havens inside Syria where Hezbollah and Assad officials colluded in huge production increases — hence recent seizures by the ton, tens of millions of pills worth billions of dollars, in Mediterranean and GCC ports.

In consequence, Lebanon’s decomposing governing system has become corrupt to the core. Export capabilities have been co-opted for the evil trade in guns and drugs. Hezbollah has a stranglehold on Lebanon’s borders, airport, and ports, leaving unanswered questions about last year’s detonation of nearly 3,000 tons of explosives in Beirut’s port, killing over 200 people.

Using agricultural products and bulk goods as a cover for weapons and narcotics smuggling has become the well established modus operandi, making import bans on Lebanese products inevitable. These products are exported by non-existent ghost companies, yet paperwork is miraculously signed off by Lebanese ministries.

Social media has been alight with the story of arrested drug lord Hassan Daqou, with images of him engaging with senior Hezbollah officials and with Hezbollah flags proudly displayed on his desk. Daqou is Syrian, but was apparently granted Lebanese nationality by the president himself. Drug dealers and warlords are living in palaces while law-abiding citizens starve!

Riyadh’s ban on agricultural exports from Lebanon is a wake-up call, a catastrophic blow to thousands of farmers, transport workers, food retailers, and exporters who don’t deserve to be punished for the sins of others. Yet what choice do Gulf states have when they are being flooded with narcotics?

Long-suffering Iran endures the world’s highest levels of drug addiction, an estimated three million addicts.Many experts believe Hezbollah and Tehran made a conscious decision to deluge their Arab and Western enemies with chemicals that could ruin millions of lives.

In Lebanon’s poorest regions, including Hezbollah strongholds, agriculture is the dominant component of the economy. The collapse of agricultural exports and rapid expansion of Captagon production risks transforming entire regions into narcotics havens, embroiling local populations in dependency on the proceeds of crime, asin parts of Afghanistan and Venezuela. Tiny Lebanon is already the world’s third-largest producer of cannabis.

Hezbollah has meanwhile exploited its connections with the Lebanese diaspora to make itself a dominant player in the global trade in cocaine, heroin and weaponry. Iran’s proxies have also made Iraqi cities such asBasra major hubs for the production and distribution of drugs such as crystal meth.

Gulf states are right to prioritize the welfare and security of their citizens by preventing the influx of drugs. However, this is the moment to deal with the disease itself, not just the symptoms. If Lebanon is allowed to continue its trajectory as a hub for drugs, weapons and terrorism, then these murderous wares will continue finding routes across borders into Arab states.

Baria Alamuddin

There has also been a sharp rise in Lebanese drug usage, partly attributable to the traumas of the economic crisis, but fueled by the availability of crystal meth, ketamine and Captagon. Hezbollah styles itself as the protector of Lebanon and Islam, but instead it is profiting by destroying Lebanese and Muslim lives.

What about those who enabled Hezbollah in rendering Lebanon a state dependent on crime, drugs and missile arsenals? I’m of course talking about Gebran Bassil who, along with his uncle the president, sold the nation out in pursuit of his impossible presidential ambitions.

The most hated man in Lebanon now also enjoys wholesale international isolation; he is subject to US sanctions and most European officials refuse to engage with him. Hence Bassil’s desperate Moscow trip to shore up support, and his much-hyped recent meeting with the Hungarian foreign minister. TV footage showed these two figures grinning like manic clowns and referring to each other as “my friend” — as if Hungary were not the EU’s very own pariah state.

Lebanon’s elections can’t come soon enough, to see Bassil’s Free Patriotic Movement receive a trouncing after the departure in disgust of all conscientious Christians. Many predict (and pray) that this wannabe-president will again lose his parliamentary seat. Supporters of Nasrallah’s “Party of God” face a similar choice: Is the best they can hope for employment in the murderous narcotics trade while Lebanon disintegrates? 

I was stunned recently speaking to Lebanese diplomats who related how their embassies lack funds topurchase even basic stationery, while the “weekly” diplomatic pouch now appears once every few months. Diplomats have difficulty getting paid because most international banks won’t deal with Lebanon’s centralbank. They also report being deluged by calls from judges, medics, teachers and other professionals, begging for help finding overseas jobs. When even the most comfortable strata of society are reduced to penury, spare a thought for the half of Lebanese society that now cannot even afford enough to eat.

Lebanon’s Patriarch, Bechara Al-Rai, is leading a nationwide rebellion against the Bassil-Nasrallah pact of national suicide. Rai’s vision for a neutral Lebanon without foreign-backed factions pointing weapons at each other has struck a chord across sectarian divides. Citizens are unified in disgust and embarrassment at growing perceptions of Lebanon becoming a narco-terrorist state governed by criminals. 

Gulf states are right to prioritize the welfare and security of their citizens by preventing the influx of drugs. However, this is the moment to deal with the disease itself, not just the symptoms. If Lebanon is allowed to continue its trajectory as a hub for drugs, weapons and terrorism, then these murderous wares will continue finding routes across borders into Arab states.

Boycotts alone won’t work. Gulf states should roll up their sleeves and decisively address the Lebanon issue, empower elements committed to Lebanon’s wellbeing, and sideline the agents of terrorism, corruption and anarchy.

The cultured, civilized Lebanon we know and love has always flourished when it’s been at the heart of the Arab world. Let’s throw out the terrorists, drug-dealers and warlords and work to restore this beautiful nation.

 

Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.

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