World roundup: September 26 2022
Stories from Iran, Ukraine, Cuba, and elsewhere
Shanah Tovah to those who are celebrating Rosh Hashanah!
PROGRAMMING NOTE: I’m going to give my throat one more rest day but I am optimistic that I’ll be able to start doing voiceovers again tomorrow. Thanks for bearing with me.
In today’s global news:
Worldometer is tracking COVID-19 cases and fatalities.
The New York Times is tracking global vaccine distribution.
The Arab Center’s Gregory Aftandilian outlines the expansion of the Captagon trade from Syria to other parts of the Middle East:
Although the Syrian government has occasionally announced crackdowns on drug trafficking, Syria appears to be one of the chief manufacturers of Captagon, even though it denies this charge. Hezbollah in Lebanon, which is a close ally of the Assad regime, is also reportedly a large manufacturer of the drug, though it also denies this accusation. One study noted that a great deal of Captagon production takes place along the Syrian-Lebanese border, where a number of factories are located. According to the study, the Fourth Division of the Syrian Army and Hezbollah have cooperated in this illicit endeavor, employing residents of small villages in the area who have few employment opportunities available to them. And other militant groups, such as Syria-based extremist group Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, are also reportedly involved in Captagon production.
From Syria and Lebanon, Captagon pills are then usually smuggled overland to Jordan, and from there on to the Gulf states—although some shipments are also transported by air and sea, often hidden in or among other products. Jordan has increasingly become a battleground in the fight to stem this illicit trade. From January to April 2022 alone, the Jordanian Army seized 17 million Captagon pills, up from 15.5 million in the whole of 2021. And in late January 2022, the Jordanian Army engaged in a fierce firefight along the Jordanian-Syrian border that resulted in the death of 27 alleged smugglers. The Jordanian Army had reportedly made changes to its rules of engagement after an officer was killed by smugglers shortly before this incident, instituting a “shoot-to-kill” policy along the border.
The drug trade has now become a large criminal enterprise. One Jordanian Army official estimated that there are 160 groups operating in southern Syria and using drones and customized vehicles in their smuggling operations. But the drugs are not just destined for the Gulf; some Jordanian youth have also become addicted to Captagon. And al-Rashid Hospital in Amman has increasingly become the main center to treat Captagon addicts from Jordan and Gulf countries. As one Jordanian Army official put it, “Drugs are destroying our families, morals and values.”
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