Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, the godfather of Captagon trade


Captagon or Fenethylline, which is causing huge headache to several governments and law enforcement agencies in the world for the past few years, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has emerged into the godfather of Captagon, while Fenethylline was launched by a German big pharma company Degussa AG in 1961. Fenethylline is an amphetamine fusion is a codrug of amphetamine and theophylline and a prodrug to both. It is also spelled phenethylline while other names for it are amphetamin​oethyl​theophylline and amfetyline. The drug was marketed for use as a psychostimulant under the brand names Captagon, Biocapton, and Fitton.

According to medical experts, Captagon gives an instant high, making the patient forget about pain, personal problems and poverty. For anyone who just wanted an incredible high, Captagon was a favorite amongst connoisseurs of chemical aids to instant nirvama. It soon became clear that the drug was highly addictive. Other better designed drugs offering real medical help for depression eventually replaced Captagon, though it was not withdrawn by Degussa until 1986, when the World Health Organization (WHO) placed it on the list of psychotropic substances and it became illegal in most countries. Since then, however, the production and trade in this illicit drug has continued, especially in the Middle Easter countries.

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has made Captagon a weapon of choice, through which he has been making billions of dollars every year. By forming a huge network with transnational narco-trafficking rackets, Bashar’s regime has been distributing it all over the Middle East and Western Asia, to the joy of millions who want momentarily to escape the oppressions, poverty, and cruelties although the alarming health impact has become impossible to ignore.

According to media reports, around 80 percent of the world’s supply of Captagon is produced in Syria under the control of Bashar’s family or close regime associates, including the military. The US and Britain have issued international arrest warrants for Bashar’s cronies, but such gesture diplomacy has had and will have no impact.

Just as the global south will not follow the US and Europe against Russian President Vladimir Putin, so the Arab world will not take lessons from London or Washington after the regime change disasters in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

Efforts by the US to get majority Muslim countries to comply with the wishes of Washington are ignored, just as those of Moscow were in the 1980s. Since 2011 the wishes of London and Paris to have obedient regimes in Tripoli and Damascus have turned into disaster. Instead, NATO and EU capitals lick the boots of anti-Jewish, anti-feminine, anti-democracy regimes, as long as they sell oil.

Now Bashar al-Assad has cynically used the global north’s indulgence of brain-altering drugs for pleasure to sell Captagon to the peoples of his neighboring regimes. He does this both to earn a great deal of money for Syrian generals and politicians, thereby ensuring their loyalty, and to show his fellow Arab leaders that shunning him, at the bidding of Washington, London and Paris, just won’t work.

Saudi Arabia broke diplomatic relations with Damascus in 2012. A decade later, as the Saudi rulers see the impact of Captagon on the young populations in the region, they are opening the door to Bashar al Assad’s return to the Arab League. The Saudis are now giving Syria considerable financial aid to be spent on combating Captagon addiction.

At the beginning of May Jordan launched an air raid on south Syria, aimed at eliminating one of Bashar’s associates, who was flooding Jordan with Captagon. Hezbollah in Lebanon organizes the transit route for Syrian-produced Captagon to much of the Arab world and Turkey.

Three years ago, French President Emmanuel Macron grandiosely promised to rebuild Lebanon, but France no more than the US or Israel has the means to displace Hezbollah. Iran and Russia are Bashar al Assad’s main non-Arab supporters, along with Turkey. Under Erdogan or any other conceivable Turkish ruler, Ankara will keep the Syrian dictator in power in exchange for support in eliminating as far as possible any Kurdish threat to the unity of the Turkish state.

So, Bashar al-Assad has scored a major diplomatic coup by being accepted back into the Arab league. He is being offered large sums of oil money in exchange for turning off the Captagon tap. It seems, there is practically no one to take action against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad – the godfather of Captagon trade in today’s world.

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Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
An internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, writer, research-scholar, counterterrorism specialist and editor of Blitz. He regularly writes for local and international newspapers on diversified topics, including international relations, politics, diplomacy, security and counterterrorism. Follow him on 'X' @Salah_Shoaib

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