Fighting drug trafficking should be Syria’s top priority
Syria, a nation torn apart by years of conflict, currently faces a critical and multifaceted challenge that is often overshadowed by other issues: the escalation of drug trafficking and smuggling. As the country strives to rebuild and find stability, addressing the threat of the drug trade should be elevated to top priority on Damascus’ national agenda.
The adverse effects of drug smuggling extend beyond Syria, permeating various countries in the region. This illicit activity not only poses a direct threat to the security and well-being of the Syrian population, but also creates ripple effects that impact the stability and socioeconomic conditions of neighboring nations.
Authorities in Jordan have recently thwarted several smuggling attempts, with some instances involving traffickers using drones to fly drugs across the border. Jordan has unfortunately been utilized as a transit route for the highly addictive drug Captagon. The Jordanian army has intensified its efforts against drug traffickers. These infiltrators have been found crossing the border with substantial quantities of weapons and explosives, prompting an escalated campaign against drug dealers. On Jan. 4, Jordan initiated airstrikes within Syria, targeting warehouses and hideouts it suspected were operated by Iranian-backed drug smugglers, as reported by Jordanian and regional intelligence sources.
There are several critical reasons why fighting drug trafficking should be a central focus for Syria this year.
First of all, the link between drug trafficking and national security cannot be overstated. It goes without saying that the illicit drug trade often fuels the activities of nonstate actors, providing them with a lucrative source of funding. Particularly in Syria, where the prolonged conflict has given rise to various armed groups and militias, cutting off this financial lifeline is essential to efforts to diminish the influence and capabilities of these groups.
In other words, by prioritizing the fight against drug trafficking, Syria can directly contribute to enhancing its national security and promoting a more stable future.
Secondly, the economic consequences of drug trafficking are far-reaching, affecting communities, families and individuals. The proliferation of illicit drugs not only leads to addiction and health issues, but also fuels crime and corruption. Tackling drug trafficking is, therefore, a critical step toward mitigating these socioeconomic consequences.
By curbing the flow of illicit substances, the Syrian government can pave the way for economic recovery, fostering an environment conducive to rebuilding infrastructure and revitalizing communities.
The relationship between illicit drugs and public health crises should not be underestimated — and Syria is not exempt from this global challenge. The influx of illicit drugs exacerbates existing health issues and strains the already fragile healthcare system. Prioritizing the fight against drug trafficking is, in essence, a commitment to safeguarding the well-being of Syrian citizens and actively contributes to the creation of a healthier society.
By curbing the flow of illicit substances, the Syrian government can pave the way for economic recovery.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
The Syrian government should more actively and robustly cooperate with other countries to tackle this issue. Addressing drug trafficking requires collaborative efforts, not only on a national level but also regionally and globally. Syria’s commitment to combating the illicit drug trade can open avenues for more cooperation with neighboring countries and international organizations.
Collaborative efforts can facilitate intelligence-sharing, joint operations and the implementation of effective strategies to disrupt drug supply chains. And by actively engaging in regional and global partnerships, the Syrian government can strengthen its position in the fight against transnational organized crime.
Thirdly, terror and militia groups often rely on illicit activities such as drug trafficking to finance their terror activities. Prioritizing the fight against the drug trade in Syria can strike a significant blow against the financial networks that sustain terrorism. Disrupting these funding streams is essential not only for national security, but also for contributing to regional as well as global efforts to counter the financing of terrorism.
In addition, there is a nexus between drug trafficking and a rise in other crimes. Unchecked drug trafficking contributes to a surge in drug-related crimes, including violence and theft. Prioritizing efforts to curb the flow of illicit drugs is, therefore, a preventive measure against the escalation of such crimes. By taking a proactive stance against drug trafficking, Damascus can create a safer environment for its citizens and lower the incidence of other related crimes.
Furthermore, by actively addressing this issue, Syria can work toward improving its international standing. Demonstrating a commitment to eradicating drug-related challenges can enhance diplomatic relations, attract foreign investments and contribute to rebuilding Syria’s reputation on the global stage. This is because the international community closely monitors all nations’ commitment to combating illicit activities, including drug trafficking.
Finally, as Syria endeavors to rebuild and achieve long-term stability, tackling the root causes of the country’s instability is paramount. Drug trafficking, with its wide-ranging social, economic and security implications, is a formidable obstacle to reconstruction efforts. By making the fight against the drug trade a top priority, the Syrian government can pave the way for sustained stability and create an environment conducive to comprehensive reconstruction.
In a nutshell, the urgent need to prioritize the fight against drug trafficking in Syria cannot be overstated. Beyond its immediate impact on national security, this issue permeates various facets of Syrian society, affecting public health, economic recovery and overall stability. The detrimental consequences of drug smuggling stretch beyond Syria as well, affecting various nations in the region.
By elevating this cause to the forefront of the national agenda, Damascus can foster a safer, healthier and more secure future for its citizens, while also signaling to the international community its commitment to global efforts against organized crime and the illicit drug trade.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist.