Conflict, corruption turning Lebanon, Syria into narco-states: Report

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Updated 18 January 2022

Conflict, corruption turning Lebanon, Syria into narco-states: Report

Conflict, corruption turning Lebanon, Syria into narco-states: Report
  • Both countries exporting massive quantities of drug Captagon to prop up ailing economies
  • Expert: ‘All countries which are under Iranian occupation are technically narco-states’

LONDON: The large-scale export of Captagon from Syria and Lebanon is the legacy of a decade of conflict combined with widespread corruption, and reliance on the drug revenues is turning both countries into narco-states, according to a new report by Britain’s Channel 4 News.

In Lebanon, militias and gangs operating in Hezbollah-controlled areas such as the Bekaa Valley are producing up to 600,000 Captagon pills per week — worth around $3 million if sold in the Gulf.

Captagon, a brand name for the amphetamine-type stimulant fenethylline, is a cheap, readily produced drug previously used by Daesh fighters to battle without fear.

An anonymous producer of the drug told Channel 4 News: “Poverty and need forced me to trade in Captagon.”

Lebanon has been grappling with an economic collapse that has driven many of its people out of the country or into illicit activities.

The corruption of the Lebanese state, of which Iran-backed Hezbollah is a major constituent, eases the process for manufacturing and exporting drugs.

“Crime exists alongside corruption in this country. If there was no corruption, there would be no crime,” said the Captagon producer.

The Assad regime in Syria, which is dealing with its own currency crisis and economic collapse, is also becoming a narco-state, said Makram Rabah, a history lecturer at the American University of Beirut.

“At the moment both Lebanon and Syria, and all countries which are under Iranian occupation, are technically narco-states — and we’re being dealt with accordingly,” Rabah told Channel 4.

“This is, unfortunately, a reality which the Lebanese up until now haven’t yet admitted, and it’s something that will prevent us recovering from the ongoing economic collapse.”

For the Assad regime, the trade of drugs is now a lifeline for an economy ravaged by a decade of civil war and crippling international sanctions.

In 2020, legal exports from the country were worth just a fifth of the value of Captagon seized from Syrian drug traders.

According to a report by the Cyprus-based Center for Operational Analysis and Research, “Captagon exports from Syria reached a market value of at least $3.46 billion” in that year.

Some of those Syrian drug dealers are known to operate out of the port of Latakia, a stronghold of the regime and under the direct control of President Bashar Assad’s brother, who commands some of the country’s most elite and loyal fighting units.

Rabah said the export of Captagon is not only keeping the Syrian economy from total collapse, but is also being used to seek revenge on Gulf countries that opposed the regime’s violent crackdown on protesters and the war that ensued.

“This drug, particularly recently with the start of the Syrian civil war, has become a weapon, a tool that the Syrian regime, as well as the Iranian regime, uses against both Lebanon and the Gulf,” he added. Captagon “has become synonymous with Hezbollah and also the Assad regime,” he said.

The trade of the drug also presents a problem for Lebanon’s border officials, whose responsibility it is to prevent their export, which is pushed by other factions within the state, namely Hezbollah.

Col. Joseph Musalim of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces said: “The manufacture and smuggling of Captagon didn’t exist in Lebanon before the Syrian crisis. It came after the crisis, and showed traders and manufacturers that it’s a profitable trade.”

Gulf countries have responded to the deluge of Captagon coming out of Lebanon and Syria by tightening customs restrictions of goods often used by drug smugglers.

In April last year, Saudi Arabia announced the suspension of fruit and vegetable imports from Lebanon after the seizure of more than 5 million Captagon pills hidden in fruit.


Arab states condemn terrorist attack on educational center in Kabul

Arab states condemn terrorist attack on educational center in Kabul
Updated 7 sec ago

Arab states condemn terrorist attack on educational center in Kabul

Arab states condemn terrorist attack on educational center in Kabul

DUBAI: Arab states have condemned Friday’s terrorist attack that targeted an educational center in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, which killed teenage students, most of them girls.

The bombing happened in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood of western Kabul, a predominantly Shiite Muslim area home to the minority Hazara community, the target of some of Afghanistan’s most deadly attacks.

The bomber shot dead two security guards before entering the gender-segregated hall where students were sitting for a practice college examination, earlier reports said.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

The Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, in a statement, condemned the attack which killed and injured “scores of innocent people.”

The ministry voiced its rejection of all forms of violence and terrorism.

Bahrain also condemned the suicide blast, and in a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed the kingdom’s “deep condolences and sympathy to the families of the victims.”

It also wished a speedy recovery for those injured.

Kuwait similarly denounced the attack as the Gulf state renewed its “firm and principled stance against all forms of violence and terrorism.”


Turkey rejects Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory

Turkey rejects Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory
Updated 27 min 50 sec ago

Turkey rejects Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory

Turkey rejects Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory
  • Turkey, a NATO member, has conducted a diplomatic balancing act since Russia invaded Ukraine

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday it rejects Russia’s annexation of four regions in Ukraine, adding the decision is a “grave violation” of international law.
Turkey, a NATO member, has conducted a diplomatic balancing act since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Ankara opposes Western sanctions on Russia and has close ties with both Moscow and Kyiv, its Black Sea neighbors. It has also criticized Russia’s invasion and sent armed drones to Ukraine.
The Turkish ministry said on Saturday it had not recognized Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, adding that it rejects Russia’s decision to annex the four regions, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
“This decision, which constitutes a grave violation of the established principles of international law, cannot be accepted,” the ministry said.
“We reiterate our support to the resolution of this war, the severity of which keeps growing, based on a just peace that will be reached through negotiations,” it added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed the annexation of the regions on Friday, promising Moscow would triumph in its “special military operation” even as he faced a potentially serious new military reversal.
His proclamation came after Russia held what it called referendums in occupied areas of Ukraine. Western governments and Kyiv said the votes breached international law and were coercive and non-representative.
The United States, Britain and Canada announced new sanctions in response.
Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky said on Friday his country had submitted a fast-track application to join the NATO military alliance and that he would not hold peace talks with Russia while Putin was still president.


UAE provides aid to those affected by floods in Mauritania

UAE provides aid to those affected by floods in Mauritania
Updated 01 October 2022

UAE provides aid to those affected by floods in Mauritania

UAE provides aid to those affected by floods in Mauritania
  • According to UN OCHA, at least 19 people have died, 38,000 people have been affected

The UAE sent a plane carrying food items on Friday to various cities and villages affected by the torrential rains that recently struck southern and eastern Mauritania, state news agency WAM reported. 

Since late July, heavy rainfall and widespread floods hit several parts of Mauritania. According to UN OCHA, at least 19 people have died, 38,000 people have been affected, and almost 4,000 houses destroyed.

“The provision of these supplies reflects the strong relations between the two countries and underscores the UAE’s humanitarian role in providing relief to those in need and those affected by disasters that threaten food security,” said Hamad Ghanem al-Mehairi, UAE Ambassador to Mauritania. 

The UAE previously sent aid to Mauritania in April 2021, as well as medical aid to support the country's efforts in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.


Iran arrests artist whose viral song became protest anthem

Iran arrests artist whose viral song became protest anthem
Updated 01 October 2022

Iran arrests artist whose viral song became protest anthem

Iran arrests artist whose viral song became protest anthem
  • A few days before his arrest on September 29, Shervin Hajipour posted the moving song on Instagram
  • Iranian authorities have also arrested female artist Donya Rad, Radio Farda reported

DUBAI: Shervin Hajipour, whose viral song became the anthem for anti-government protests in Iran, has been arrested by police with his whereabouts currently unknown.

It was also unclear what were the charges brought against the young singer, news website Radio Farda reported.

A few days before his arrest on September 29, Hajipour posted the moving song on Instagram describing the current situation in the Islamic Republic, which was triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini while in custody of the morality police.

Hajipour’s song had garnered more than 40 million views on Instagram, and has spread on other social media platforms, before it was removed.

The lyrics of Hajipour’s song was woven from tweets posted by Iranians following Amini’s death, many of them blaming the country’s clerical leadership for the current social, economic and political problems.

 

 

“For the shame of having no money,” read one of the tweets in Hajipour’s song.

“For the fear of kissing a lover on the street,” said another tweet.

“For the political prisoners,” another part of the lyrics said.

Iranian authorities have also arrested female artist Donya Rad, Radio Farda reported, after she posted a photo of herself eating out in Tehran without a head scarf and the image going viral on social media.

Rad’s sister claimed Donya was taken to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.


Iran’s leaders ‘in disarray’ as protests grow

Iran’s leaders ‘in disarray’ as protests grow
Updated 01 October 2022

Iran’s leaders ‘in disarray’ as protests grow

Iran’s leaders ‘in disarray’ as protests grow
  • High-level jockeying for position over who will succeed Khamenei as supreme leader

JEDDAH: Iran’s clerical rulers are in disarray over how to crush mass anti-government protests amid rifts over security tactics and high-level maneuvering over who will succeed Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, analysts say.
Nationwide unrest over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in morality police custody has coincided with new rumors about the 83-year-old supreme leader’s ailing health, posing a threat to Iran’s religious establishment.
Although in theory, the 86-member Assembly of Experts will choose the next leader, jockeying for influence has already begun, making it difficult for the ruling clerics to unite around a set of security tactics.
“This race has caused disarray inside the leadership. The deepening rift is the last thing we need when the country is in turmoil,” one hard-line official said. “The main issue right now is the Islamic Republic’s survival.”

FASTFACT

Nationwide unrest over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in morality police custody has coincided with new rumors about the 83-year-old supreme leader’s ailing health.

The two candidates viewed as favorites to replace Khamenei are his son Mojtaba and President Ebrahim Raisi. “Neither of them has popular support,” said Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “But what keeps the Islamic Republic in power is not popular support, but repression — and both men are deeply experienced in repression.”
As the protests spread to 80 cities nationwide, Iran’s rulers have accused a coalition of “anarchists, terrorists and foreign foes” of orchestrating the troubles — a narrative few Iranians believe.
Alarmed by the depth of popular outrage, some senior clerics and politicians have appealed for restraint to avoid bloodshed that could galvanize and embolden protesters.
But that has not stopped hard-liners calling for tougher measures, despite the death of at least 75 protesters in the security crackdown. “A part of the establishment fears that this time using more lethal force can push the Islamic Republic to a no return point,” said a senior former Iranian official.

 

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