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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Normalization with Assad proves to be an epic fail

Assad receives Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud in Damascus, Syria on Apr. 18, 2023; Credit: Syrian Presidency/Facebook

It has been more than three months since Saudi Arabia and UAE joined a bloc of Arab countries in the Middle East that had already normalized relations with the Assad regime in Syria under the premise of stabilizing the country and improving the living conditions for millions of Syrians still living within its borders. But in spite of the promises made by the Assad regime, the situation inside Syria has continued to worsen even in the wake of the move toward normalization which comes as no surprise to those who have a reality-based understanding of how this regime operates. But it does cause more than a few observers to wonder if the underlying intent of the superficial efforts to normalize Assad wasn’t simply a ploy to expose the ineptness of the regime and its profound inability to ever be rehabilitated. 

Assad criminals and thugs who terrorize ordinary citizens with impunity have become even more lawless and out of control and the regime itself is so rife with corruption that it’s difficult to imagine the possibility of any genuine reform without a total housecleaning and a fresh start

When Assad made it clear in 2011 that he would rather destroy the country than give in to the people’s demands for government reform and an end to the corruption that was rampant in Syria, it should have been clear to all concerned that his survival as “president” trumped all other concerns. In the interim years, it has become even more obvious that Assad criminals and thugs who terrorize ordinary citizens with impunity have become even more lawless and out of control and the regime itself is so rife with corruption that it’s difficult to imagine the possibility of any genuine reform without a total housecleaning and a fresh start with a whole new set of government leaders who weren’t afraid to establish and enforce laws that protect all Syrians citizens.

Ironically, as part of the normalization agreement, Assad also agreed to make efforts to bring an end to the production and distribution of Fenethylline, also known as Captagon, a highly addictive synthetic amphetamine-type stimulant that has been providing his regime with billions of dollars of much-needed revenue making it possible for Assad to remain financially solvent for years in spite of heavy sanctions that have been imposed on him and key members of his regime by the US and other countries. But once again this was just another attempt to put on a show in order to get what he wants.

not only is the Assad regime not making any real effort to stem the flow of drugs out of Syria, it has every intention of expanding its production and distribution well beyond the MENA region

In a recent article in Foreign Policy, Charles Lister, senior fellow, and director of the Syria and Counterterrorism and Extremism programs at the Middle East Institute, stated that he had collected data showing that in the last three months alone $1 billion worth of Syrian-made Captagon had been confiscated in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, and the UAE proving that Assad had no intention of curbing the drug trafficking operation that has kept him afloat. But even more disturbing than the number of Syrian-made drugs that continue to flood the Middle East region was the discovery of a Captagon production facility run by Syrians in southern Germany. Lister cited that approximately $20 million worth of pills were confiscated by German authorities along with 2.5 tons of chemicals used to produce Captagon indicating that not only is the Assad regime not making any real effort to stem the flow of drugs out of Syria, it has every intention of expanding its production and distribution well beyond the MENA region.

With the value of the Syrian pound dropping even further since the Saudi foreign minister visited Damascus in April, from 7.500 Syrian pounds for every US dollar to about 14,000 today, most Syrians are struggling just to survive and have lost all hope of economic recovery under the current regime

In the meantime, living conditions continue to worsen for those in Syria who are not part of Assad’s crime syndicate, and many of the people who have been tolerating Assad, even if they did not outright support him, have had enough. Demonstrators are once again hitting the streets in a variety of locations in the regime-controlled areas of the country and sources we will not name for their own security have told Syriawise that, for the first time in their lives, they are ready to give voice to their own discontent as well. With the value of the Syrian pound dropping even further since the Saudi foreign minister visited Damascus in April, from 7.500 Syrian pounds for every US dollar to about 14,000 today, most Syrians are struggling just to survive and have lost all hope of economic recovery under the current regime. In the coming days, we will be watching closely to see what the countries that have made steps toward normalization will decide to do now.

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